The Denver Nuggets headed into Sunday night’s showdown on the second night of a back-to-back against the defending champion, Golden State Warriors. They were undefeated on the year, but were facing their toughest opponent yet.

With so much going against them, Denver still managed to pull out a 100-98 victory over Golden State with their defense. With so much excitement already riding on this season, things just got that much more fun as there is a different feel to this team.

With that being said, here are the good, the bad and the ugly from an instant classic at the Pepsi Center.

The Good – Defense and the second unit

Denver came into the game as a five-point underdog without Will Barton on the second night of a back-to-back against the Golden State Warriors. Denver did not have many advantages going into the game. They started slow, allowed Steph Curry to catch fire late in the game, and missed 18 shots from the free throw line, but somehow still managed to remain undefeated on Sunday evening. The most shocking part is that there was no shootout — Denver won with their defense.

The defense was the biggest area of concern heading into the season. Fast forward to their third win of the of the year and defense is the way that Denver is getting it done. There has been runs made by the opposing team and players that have had solid scoring performances, but the effort has been there and has made the difference on that side of the floor. Denver looks like a whole new team.

Sunday night’s win against the Warriors was Denver’s third-straight game that the Nuggets have held their opponent under 100 points. Not only was it the defense but the bench unit also stepped up and provided a spark in the game.

Denver’s second unit has been up and down to start out the year. The bench played well and was the story of the preseason but did not perform well against the Clippers and all but Torrey Craig were in the negative against Phoenix. However, on Sunday on the second night of a back to back when the starters needed them, the reserves delivered. Their play helped give Denver another win.

The Bad – Denver’s slow start

Tired legs and fatigue might have been the reason for the slow start offensively. The Nuggets played the Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back and had their worst opening quarter of the season. Denver shot a whopping 13 percent from the field in the first quarter and could not get much going offensively. Even worse was their percentage from beyond the arc which proves that fatigue had something to do with it. The Nuggets went 1-10 from the three-point line yet somehow managed to only be down by eight points heading into the second quarter.

Denver picked it up a bit in the second quarter. It was the second unit along with Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic that provided the spark. Harris made it a point to attack on offense which got things going for Denver after the slow start. He headed into the half leading Denver in scoring with 12 points and Jokic added 11 points as well. Alongside them was Trey Lyles and Juancho Hernangomez who got extended time due to the abscense of Barton. They both provided energy off of the bench which Denver needed and, because of that spark, the Nuggets overcame a slow start and went into halftime with a two-point lead and eventually won the game.

If Denver wants to put teams away, they cannot afford to get off to slow starts like they did against the Warriors. Although it was a positive to see that the team is capable of overcoming these type of games, getting out to fast starts will be key to Denver winning these big games on a more consistent basis.

The Ugly – Injuries

Will Barton went down with an apparent groin injury in the third quarter on Saturday against the Suns. He was wheeled off of the court on a medical cart but reappeared in the locker room and spoke to reporters after the game which pointed in the right direction of positive news looming. On Sunday after an MRI it was announced by Shams Charania of the Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that Barton yielded a right groin strain and a core strain.

This fortunately was good news for Denver that it ended up only being a strain and not a tear, but it also added another key player to the Nuggets to the injury report. Denver now has to figure out how to play without their starting small forward. Malone placed Craig in the starting lineup against Golden State and that allowed more opportunity for bench players like Lyles, Hernangomez and Malik Beasley.

If that was not enough bad enough, in Sunday’s game starting point guard Jamal Murray went down with an injury of his own. Murray had an awkward sequence. He suffered the injury, went to the locker room, returned to the game for just a brief moment, and went back into the locker room only for Denver to say that he had suffered a left tibia contusion before returning once again to finish out the game.

After the game Head Coach Malone spoke to reporters and said that “Jamal has been battling some injuries if you will.”

The Nuggets will surely take the next-man-up approach, but could really be down two starters, Monte Morris did a great job of filling the point guard role on Sunday and will be asked to do much more if Murray does have to miss additional time.