The Denver Nuggets beat the Golden State Warriors 119-112 on Friday night to wrap up their preseason schedule with a 3-2 record. The NBA box scores were down across the league, so game statistics are hard to come by; however, just know that Michael Porter Jr. and Bones Hyland put on a show offensively while Nikola Jokić finally got some things going as a scorer tonight. Denver’s defense struggled at times with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but they rattled off an impressive third quarter run that should give fans some serious excitement heading into the regular season.

Jamal Murray sat out the game tonight, so the Nuggets went back to the starting lineup that found significant success against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. Bruce Brown started at point guard and played good defense against Stephen Curry, though Curry still did the things he normally does.

Michael Porter Jr. got off to a great start and continues to look comfortable in the Nuggets offense. He also played reasonable defense against the Warriors, though it was clear in the second quarter that reasonable wouldn’t be good enough. Golden State went on an absolute tear right before halftime, one that caused technical fouls from both Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Malone.

Everything changed in the third quarter though. The Nuggets won the quarter 42-20 using a combination of defense, pace, and attacking the rim to take advantage of a Warriors unit that became suddenly lax (final preseason game). Jokić began to get some shots up, and Porter stayed hot. Caldwell-Pope and Brown locked in defensively, helping generate transition opportunities. The bench picked up where the starters left off, and Bones Hyland showcased a TON of confidence to close that third quarter.

The Nuggets played like a team that could use a final preseason tuneup, and they passed the test for sure.

Here are the primary takeaways from Friday’s matchup against the Warriors:

The third quarter was the best quarter of the season

After a rough second quarter that the Nuggets should have lost by more than they did, Denver absolutely turned it on in the third quarter. Brown and Caldwell-Pope made high effort plays on the perimeter that are needed to combat an offense featuring Stephen Curry. Porter, Gordon, and Jokić also pushed up higher on the perimeter to prevent outside shots and din’t look bad doing so.

The Nuggets know how difficult it’s going to be to defend teams like Golden State. The difference between last year and this year is that the Nuggets have a fighting chance with their personnel. The Nuggets switched a lot of actions as teams have to against the Warriors, and the length and athleticism of Porter and Gordon helped make it work.

Offensively, it was all about pushing the pace, attacking, and generating some free throws. Denver can sometimes struggle to get to the free throw line, so it was good to see them end up there.

Michael Porter Jr. is making plays within the flow

This was perhaps Michael Porter Jr.’s best game of the preseason. Early on, he made some ridiculous shots. The difference was that he was in position to take them and it often made sense for him to attempt the shots he did. His process was very good, and the Nuggets should be encouraged by how quickly he’s finding his touches within the flow of things. There will be time to break the flow, but why mess with what’s working if he gets rhythm shots in the process?

Perhaps just as important was his defense. He will never be an elite isolation defender, but he looked greatly improved tonight against a Warriors attack that has made Denver’s defense look silly at times. He understood his responsibilities, hedging on pick and rolls consistently and switched when he had to switch. The Warriors made some tough shots in the first half, but those makes dried up in the third quarter. Porter was just as much a part of that as anybody.

Bones Hyland looks ready; TBD on the rest of the bench unit

This was another great showing for Bones. The Nuggets rolled out a bench unit featuring Christian Braun, Davon Reed, Jeff Green, and DeAndre Jordan in the first half. Spacing was cramped, and the activity level wasn’t great, but Bones made it work. He created and made some tough shots, settling into his role as the first option with some serious poise. Though there were certainly some mistakes made, Bones looked the part on both ends of the floor. He’s ready for the regular season to begin.

As for the rest of the bench, we will just have to see. Davon Reed had some good and bad moments, as did Christian Braun. Denver’s offensive flow wasn’t great until Ish Smith checked in next to Bones in the second half. Having two capable playmakers on the floor was extremely helpful, and it allowed Bones to operate off ball at times while Ish made some good plays. Green made some good plays and Jordan threw down a lob dunk in the fourth quarter from Ish. It was very functional and stable, something Denver hasn’t seen with their bench groups in a long time.

The Nuggets certainly have some decisions to make on their rotation before the season opener on Wednesday in Utah. Zeke Nnaji looks to be behind Jordan in the rotation to begin the year, and Bruce Brown will move back to the second unit, causing some other ripples. Will Ish, Bones, AND Brown all play together? Can Denver handle that defensively? Should Braun play over Reed? What happens if Denver staggers starters?

A lot of questions, though it appears Denver’s answers are reasonably good.

Final rotations