Nuggets remain confident despite big loss to the Warriors in Game 1 of NBA playoffs

Apr 16, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Denver Nuggets center DeMarcus Cousins (4) reacts after being called for a technical foul against the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter during game one of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at the Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors defended their home court in Game 1 of the NBA playoffs and blew out the Denver Nuggets 123-107. The Warriors closed the second quarter on an 18-4 run and it was just too much of a deficit for the Nuggets to overcome.

“We can’t beat ourselves and the Warriors in the same game and we did that tonight,” Michael Malone said. “Whether it was the 41 points off turnovers and rebounds, whether it was blown coverages. There was a blown coverage where we should’ve guarded a player a certain way and we didn’t. Just too many lack of discipline examples coupled with everything else and that’s why we got beaten tonight.” 

Golden State outscored Denver 64-43 in the second and third quarters combined and scored 21 points off of the Nuggets’ 11 turnovers. Denver gave up just 10 offensive rebounds but the Warriors managed to score 20 points off of those. The Warriors also had 20 second-chance points to the Nuggets eight. Most of these mistakes made in Saturday night’s game could’ve been avoided if Denver played with more urgency. 

“We got to rebound the ball better and not turn it over,” Will Barton said. “Those things are more hustle, energy and heart more than anything. They’re already a good enough team and put up enough points as it is. We can’t give them extra opportunities or they’ll make you pay like they did tonight.”  

Barton, who had 24 points, took the blame for the free throw discrepancy. The Warriors went to the line 29 times while the Nuggets went just 13. He said they have to do a better job at getting those calls and it all starts with how they approach the game. 

“We weren’t aggressive enough,” Barton said. “They were attacking and getting all loose balls, all 50-50 balls, all second chance points, offensive rebounding, they were just beating us to the punch tonight and when you play that way usually you get the whistle in your favor so we got to reverse that energy in game two and be the ones who are more aggressive.”

Nikola Jokic certainly didn’t get his fair share of free throw attempts although he was getting fouled left and right. He finished the night with 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 34 minutes of play but only went to the line twice. Jokic chose not to get into too much detail when asked about the lack of calls to avoid getting fined so he took the high road and said the Warriors did a good job defensively. 

“Really good,” Jokic said when asked how they defended him. “They had the tools. I missed a couple easy ones but I think they were defending me really well. I need to be better. I need to at least make the layups and the easy shots.”

Draymond Green and Kevon Looney made things especially difficult for the reigning MVP and took turns defending him. They were man-to-man at times and then brought in a double team. 

To make matters worse, at the 10:28 mark of the fourth quarter, Jokic’s backup DeMarcus Cousins received back-to-back technicals and was ejected from the game. Malone said he spoke with official Karl Lane and asked why the first technical was called.

“It happened right in front of me and I did not see or hear DeMarcus do anything from my vantage point that would have required a technical foul to be called,” Malone said. “I think the ensuing one, I guess Scott Foster said he said a few choice words which warranted the second technical foul but again I did not see or hear anything for that first tech so that’s something we can look at and speak to the league about.” 

This was the first time the Nuggets played the Warriors with Green, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson all on the floor together this season. Curry has been dealing with a foot injury but was made available to play off the bench. He scored 16 points in 21 minutes. Thompson scored 19, hitting five from beyond the arc and Green finished with 12 points, six rebounds and nine assists. But the real difference maker was Jordan Poole who scored 30 points.

“Try to take away any of his easy looks and put more pressure on him,” Barton said on what Denver needs to do to stop Poole in Game 2. “Don’t let him be as comfortable…He has had a hell of a year all season so we just got to get into him a little bit more. Make it a little more tough on him. Be a little more physical with him and just compete more on that end.” 

The Nuggets gave up 16 3-pointers while only making 11 of their 35 attempts. It was an all around disappointing game but the Nuggets have faced adversity before and refuse to let this one loss define them. They know exactly what they need to do to bounce back for next game.

“Just stay together,” Monte Morris said. “It’s one game. Seven game series, first to four. No need to panic, we’ve been down before. We’ve been up before. Still a lot of basketball to be played so our thing is to just stay together.”

Denver faces Golden State on the road again for Game 2 on Monday night before heading back to Denver to host the Warriors on Thursday and Sunday. 

There is still no word on if Jamal Murray will return to action. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said that Murray had been cleared to play but the ball is in his court if he feels comfortable enough to return. In recent weeks it has been reported that he has ramped up his training regimen to return to action and has been practicing with the team. It has been over a year since Murray has played after going down with an ACL injury.

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