Tuesday’s matchup was highly anticipated as the top two teams in the Western Conference clashed with plenty at stake.
The Golden State Warriors came into the game as winners of six of their last seven and were vying to get back to the top spot out West. The just-as-hot Nuggets have won eight of their last 10 games and are coming off of a signature 116-113 win against the Portland Trailblazers on the second night of a back-to-back that saw Nikola Jokic put up 40 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
The stakes were high as the Nuggets were in unfamiliar territory — leading the West for a majority of the season — and the winner of the game would claim first place in the Western Conference standings
The Warriors, however came in with guns blazing and walked away with a convincing, 142-111 victory, bumping the Nuggets down to second place. Here are the good, the bad and the ugly from Tuesday’s loss.
Good – Still in great position out West
The last time these two teams faced off, the Nuggets were the victors by a score of 100-98 as Juancho Hernangomez blocked Damion Jones at the rim — so this was a revenge game for the Warriors.
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and Golden State made a statement with this win. The Warriors won by 31-points, but that cannot take away from the type of season that the Nuggets are having.
With the loss, Denver moves to 29-14, which is good for the second-best record out West and they still have one of the best home records in the entire NBA. The loss snapped a 12-game winning streak at the Pepsi Center, which shows just how good the Nuggets have been.
On top of that, the Nuggets’ two best players performed well in the matchup and did not back down to the best competition there is, something the Nuggets will need heading into their playoff push.
Jokic finished with 17 points, eight assists and four rebounds on the night while being double-teamed at times, continuing his hot play as of late. There was a stretch in the game when he was going straight at Draymond Green and proving exactly why he is regarded as one of the best players in the league.
Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley also had solid games, considering. The two combined for 43 points and knocked down 10 shots from beyond the arc. They showed that they are not afraid to compete against the defending champions, which can go a long way if the two teams were to meet up in the playoffs with plenty more at stake.
Bad – An atrocious start on defense
The Nuggets got off to a bad start, and it was immediately obvious that Denver would struggle on Tuesday.
Jokic turned the ball over on the first play of the game — which led to a Kevin Durant basket — and from there, the flood gates opened.
While Denver did a great job of answering back with baskets of their own, the Nuggets had a very difficult time stopping the Warriors from scoring. Golden State set an NBA record by putting up 51 points in the first quarter, while shooting a whopping 76 percent from the field.
The Warriors scored a franchise record 51 points in the first quarter tonight at Denver, including a franchise-best 10 three-point field goals (10-14 3FG).
— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) January 16, 2019
Not only did Golden State get plenty of open looks, but they were scorching hot from beyond the arc, knocking down 10 3-pointers in the quarter alone. The big three of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry had it going, combining for 42 points in the first quarter alone.
The second quarter was much of the same for the Warriors as Denver could not do much to stop the Warriors from scoring. The Warriors won the second quarter, 28-22, leaving Denver down by 19 points at the half.
Ugly – Defending the 3-point line
Curry was coming off of his best performance since returning from an injury and had just hit 11 3-pointers on Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks on his way to a 48-point night.
Coming into the game, it had to be the Nuggets’ plan to run Curry off the 3-point line, but they couldn’t — Curry finished with 31 points and knocked down eight 3-pointers on the night.
Steph from D33333333P
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 16, 2019
Durant and Thompson also got in on the action as they combined for 10 3-pointers.
The Warriors would finish the game with 21 made 3-pointers on the night, which proved to be disastrous for Denver.
The Nuggets entered the game as a team in both the top ten in offensive and defensive efficiency, but took a big step back as they allowed the Warriors to score 142 points on the night and shoot 60 percent from the field.
There were plenty of reasons that Denver lost, but the Nuggets did a terrible job in running shooters out of their spots, fighting through picks and keeping their hands up — and the Warriors made them pay.
The Warriors shot lights-out, and would beat any team in the NBA when they are all clicking at the same time — like they were on Tuesday evening — but if Denver wants to be a team that is taken seriously as they prepare for a long-awaited playoff push, they will have to perform better in big games, and that includes stepping up to the challenge and defending at a higher level.