Nikola Jokic ejected as Warriors’ death lineup dismantle the Nuggets in Game 2

Apr 18, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) argues the call against the Golden State Warriors during the third quarter of game two of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as the Golden State Warriors inserted their death lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins it was over for the Denver Nuggets. The Warriors closed the second quarter on a 26-8 run and outscored the Nuggets 44-30 in the third to secure the 126-106 blowout win. 

“I almost feel that we have to play as close to perfect as possible to avoid those runs and give ourselves a chance,” Michael Malone said. “As we’ve seen in Games 1 and 2 that is hard to do for 48 minutes.”

Denver had as much as a 43-31 lead with 7:23 left in the second quarter until Kerr unleashed the death lineup. It was nothing but chaos from there. The Warriors went up 57-51 at halftime and dominated the second half by outscoring the Nuggets 69-55. Golden State shot 56% from the field and 45% from long range in the second half. 

The Nuggets committed 16 turnovers which led to 25 unanswered points for the Warriors. Malone said turnovers were a huge part of Golden State’s runs but also added that poor shot selection helped fuel their breaks and allowed the Warriors to go off in transition. Malone had given his team a solid game plan but Monte Morris said they haven’t been following it the past two games. 

“We got to make them feel us,” Morris said. “They’re out there dancing around. It’s just embarrassing. We just got to be tougher. Coach is doing what he has to do. He’s giving us a great game plan. We just got to be tougher.” 

To make matters worse Will Barton and DeMarcus Cousins got into it on the sidelines during a timeout and had to be separated. Morris said it was just normal frustration but words were definitely exchanged in the locker room post game. 

“Everybody really gave their piece,” Morris said. “We went around the room. It’s tough. We got to figure it out. We can do all the talking. It’s repetitive at this point. Top to bottom. We got to be a lot better for us to have a chance.”

Morris continued and said a lot of the dirty laundry aired out in the locker room was issues that should’ve been handled earlier in the season but instead was vocalized after Monday’s night loss. 

“We all should be able to take constructive criticism,” Morris said. “Also with that being said being grown men there’s a way you approach another man so just to me I just feel like a lot of emotions flared up but it’s stuff we should’ve been talking about earlier in the year. We can’t go into war this late in the season and now try to talk about things that’s going wrong. We all have to hold ourselves accountable to be better out there.”

On top of that, Nikola Jokic grew frustrated with the officials and was ejected from the game with seven minutes left to go. He finished the night with 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. 

“It is what it is,” Jokic said. “I’m not supposed to do that. I think I get fouled at moments because I heard the slaps so that’s why I just react.” 

As much as Malone agrees with Jokic not getting the foul calls he deserves, he told the reigning MVP that he has to do a better job at handling his emotions especially since he’s the leader of this team. 

“He’s way too valuable and way too important to our team to be in the locker room watching the end of the game,” Malone said. “Also as a leader of this team he has to show guys in adverse times when things aren’t going your way you have to find a way to fight through it. Be mentally tough and I think that’s going to be a challenge for him moving forward.” 

Steve Kerr threw everything he possibly could at Jokic to slow the big man down. From Draymond Green to Gary Payton II, they held Jokic to just 10 points in the second half. 

“Jokic is amazing and we have to throw everything at him to try to limit him,” Kerr said. “I think all we’re trying to do is defend him without fouling and crowd him and try to put as much pressure on him as possible because he’s just a brilliant player and so skilled that we can’t just sit back and let him pick us apart.” 

Draymond Green takes pride in his defensive intensity and did everything in his power to make Jokic a nonfactor in Game 2. After Jokic grabbed six boards in the first quarter, Green made it a point to stop him off the glass. From then on he only grabbed five the rest of the game. 

“I just kind of read body language and frustration,” Green said. “Frustration usually shows up in body language. That’s what I try to read. You try to read interactions with teammates and how someone’s reacting to their teammates and if you feel like you’re getting under their skin you press up a little more. If you don’t feel like you’re getting under their skin you press up a little more so just try to do my job.”

Green finished the night with six points and six assists. The Warriors were a +20 with him on the floor. Curry came off the bench shooting a ridiculous 12 of 17 from the field for 34 points in just 23 minutes of play. Poole added 29 points on 10 of 16 from the field, eight assists and five rebounds and Thompson scored 21 to help give Golden State a 2-0 series lead. 

“We just have to find a way to stay together no matter what’s going on, whether it’s good or bad,” Malone said. “ [We have to] find a way to stay the course, stay together because that’s the only chance we have to be competitive in this series. If we’re fragmented or breaking off into groups, or individuals, then we have zero chance of winning a game in this series.” 

The Nuggets have a chance to redeem themselves as they host Games 3 and 4 at Ball Arena this Thursday and Sunday, respectively. The Nuggets have struggled at home this season with a 23-18 record but are confident they can get the job done in front of their fans.

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