Good, bad & ugly: Nuggets squander late lead in loss to Golden State

Mar 3, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Mason Plumlee (7) drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors forward Dragan Bender (10) in the fourth quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets were back at the Pepsi Center for Tuesday evening’s game after getting two days off to follow Sunday night’s 133-118 win over the Toronto Raptors.

The Nuggets offense has been a top-five unit since the All-Star break, but Denver has also been a bottom-five defense over that same span of time. So Tuesday’s game was about getting right against one of the most injured teams in the league.

Denver looked as if they were on the right track as they led by as many as 15 points in the game, but a second-half swing by the Warriors turned into one of the Nuggets ugliest losses of the entire season.

Golden State picked up a 116-100 win over Denver, leaving the Nuggets searching for answers and in even tighter or a Western Conference race, and with that, I give you the good, bad and ugly.

Good – Plumlee shines in defeat

While there were not many things that went well for Denver as they were embarrassed at home by one of the worst teams in the league, there was one bright spot.

While Nikola Jokic led the way early on for the Nuggets with a great opening quarter, backup center Mason Plumlee had one of his best games of the entire season.

Plumlee missed 12 games with a sprained right foot and has been attempting to work his way back into the rotation slowly. He has had a few decent showings as he remains on a minute restriction, but in Tuesday’s game he looked closer to his usual self.

In the second quarter, Plumlee had three-straight put-back dunks to give the Nuggets momentum and the lead. He crashed the boards and brought energy off of the bench to lead the Nuggets bench unit and get Denver back in the game.

After sitting for most of the third quarter due to the restriction, he got back in the game, and it was more of the same for Plumlee. Plumlee was aggressive on the boards and was efficient in the game. He finished with 16 points as he was 7-8 from the field and he also grabbed nine rebounds despite only playing 13 minutes.

Plumlee was not able to close out the game, and Denver ended up taking a tough loss, but it was a great sign having a player from the bench play well on the night.

Bad – Nuggets first-quarter shooting numbers

The Nuggets did not get off to the start that they wanted, and it allowed the Warriors to hang around for the first half and feel as if they had a chance.

Golden State raced off to a quick 8-0 start with the Nuggets turning the ball over, missing free throws, and also allowing the Warriors to get open looks. Golden State knocked down open 3-pointers and finished 6-10 from beyond the arc in the first quarter to give them the momentum and the lead.

Denver did a better job defensively to close out the quarter, but their offense was nowhere to be found as Jokic was the only Nuggets player that could get anything going early on. Jokic finished the opening quarter with eight points and eight rebounds to keep Denver in the game after their slow start.

Denver trailed 26-25 after the opening frame as they shot only 37% from the field and a brutal 28% from beyond the arc.

The Nuggets’ poor shooting percentages from deep and not running shooters off of the line on defense ended up being the story of the game and the reason that Denver lost.

When the Nuggets are up against a team like the Warriors, getting off to a hot-start goes a long way in closing teams out early, and the Nuggets were unable to do that.

Ugly – Horrible loss

With the loss, the Nuggets are still in third place in the Western Conference and are only one full game down behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the second seed.

But, the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz are slowly lurking and are going to try and make their move on the Nuggets.

With a win against the Raptors on Sunday, the Nuggets had a chance to start a winning streak with their game against the Warriors but instead Denver fell flat on their faces. They made too many mistakes and Golden State capitalized on them.

The Nuggets scored 24 more points in the paint than the Warriors and heavily out-rebounded Golden State, but lost the game from the three-point line. The Warriors were on fire from deep as they went 18-41 from beyond the arc in the game. The Nuggets, on the other hand, could not hit anything from deep going an abysmal 3-20 from beyond the arc.

Denver got complacent with their big lead, and it led to the Nuggets putting their guard down and Golden State responding. After the game, head coach Michael Malone said, “the reality is this: we are not a good team right now.”

Denver did not play to the best of their abilities and allowed the Warriors to rally late in the game and this is just another night where the Nuggets played down to their competition for whatever reason.

There will be an overreaction to the Nuggets losing to a sub-.500 team, but once Denver finds a way to stay motivated, they will be fine.

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