The Denver Nuggets played their third Christmas Day game of the last four seasons today, matching up with Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in a matinee affair. After a back-and-forth battle that saw some very weird stat lines, the Nuggets ultimately won the game 120-114 on the strength of their three-point defense.

Jamal Murray finished the game with 28 points and made several plays down the stretch to help the Nuggets achieve a victory.

 The Warriors shot 14-of-40 from three-point range, good for 35%. They shot 7-of-12 from three-point range to begin the game, but after the Nuggets locked in a bit better defensively, the Warriors shot just 7-of-28 from three. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson struggled in particular, combining to shoot 6-of-23 from three-point range.

Michael Malone was happy with Denver’s defensive effort postgame, crediting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter Jr. specifically.

“To hold Steph to 7-of-21 from the field, 3-of-13 from three…just an outstanding job by KCP. Watching him tonight was – if that guy’s not considered one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, I don’t know who is.”

Caldwell-Pope and Porter made big plays throughout the day defensively. Caldwell-Pope only finished with two steals, but his energy level sticking to Curry was extremely high. Porter finished the game with 10 rebounds and four blocks, impacting the game defensively on both the interior and perimeter, blocking Klay Thompson’s jump shot multiple times.

“I thought Michael Porter was really good tonight. He had the 10 boards and the four blocks, closing out and using his length,” Malone shared postgame. “When Michael does this (Malone sticks both hands in the air) he’s a difference maker.”

“It’s important because you can’t jump into guys,” shared Michael Porter postgame. “[High hands] really does make a difference when guys do it to me. Against this team, it’s especially important because they can all shoot from so deep.”

The Nuggets needed every bit of this defensive performance. The Warriors still scored 114 points anyway despite Denver’s efforts because of their bench execution. The Warriors combined for 57 points off the bench with Andrew Wiggins leading the entire team with 22 points. The Warriors demolished Denver’s bench unit, and it caused Malone and the Nuggets to greatly alter bench rotations. Aaron Gordon played backup center, and Jamal Murray replaced Reggie Jackson entering the fourth quarter.

The Nuggets had to work through it, but they found ways with their starting group. Jamal Murray led the team with 28 points on 10-of-18 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range. Murray dealt with some foul trouble throughout the game, but he worked through it, finishing with 33 minutes and was a +20 in the contest.

Porter, on top of his defensive contributions, also led the team at +23 in the plus-minus department. He had 19 points, catching fire once again in the first quarter and dunking on Jonathan Kuminga. The Nuggets continued to feed Porter throughout the game, and the efficiency dried up a bit, but it was still nice to see him play extended minutes (just over 40 minutes) and remain involved on both ends throughout the contest.

 Nikola Jokic had a weird game, going just 4-of-12 from the field and struggling with his shot around the rim once again. He began the game 1-of-8 and was tracking toward a poor scoring performance…then he got to the free throw line again and again. Jokic attempted a season high 18 free throws and made every single one of them, saving his performance a bit. Jokic finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, and two steals. The rest of Jokic’s game was fairly standard, and his perimeter contain in pick and roll helped limit Stephen Curry to 18 points on 21 shots himself.

Still, not everybody was happy that Jokic finally got to the free throw line. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr sounded off on the officiating post game.

The Nuggets ultimately survived their Christmas Day game. The last three times the Nuggets appeared on Christmas, the games ranged from wild to disappointing. This one was certainly fun, and while neither team played great, the Nuggets ultimately dug it out with some clutch baskets down the stretch. The starters continue to play great basketball, and when the bench finally figures out their consistency, Denver will be a force to be reckoned with.

“Just trying to have fun out there,” shared Jamal Murray post game. “It was a good gift for everybody, and it will be nice to go home to our families now.”

Merry Christmas from Mile High Sports everyone.

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