Warriors’ depth too much for Nuggets as they drop their second-straight road game

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January 8, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates after a play against Denver Nuggets guard Torrey Craig (3) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Denver Nuggets came into the Oracle Arena they handed the Curry-less Golden State Warriors perhaps their worst loss of the Kevin Durant era. On Monday night, Curry was back for the rematch, and it didn’t seem to matter that Durant was inactive as the Warriors got their revenge with a 124-115 victory.

Denver’s offense looked sharp early, but the pace of the game looked just the way Golden State likes it to be: fast. Even with Golden State being without their all-world forward, Kevin Durant, the Warriors looked sharp and were able to get up 29 shots in the first quarter; they hit over half of them.

Allowing Golden State to play at their pace is a dangerous game, but cripplingly so without a relentless effort on the defensive glass. No team in the world needs a second chances less than Golden State yet Denver allowed them to pick up four offensive rebounds in the first quarter. A ridiculous start from Draymond Green, some early offense from Klay Thompson, and those second-chance points allowed the Warriors to drop 35 points in the opening frame.

Nikola Jokic was aggressive and effective with his shot while turning in a solid effort on the glass. Jokic kept the Nuggets in the game in the early-going before — as has become seemingly customary in Nuggets’ games of late — Trey Lyles put his mark on the game with some great early offense off the bench. Lyles dropped in seven points and the Nuggets kept themselves within striking distance with 27 points of their own.

Unlike the prior matchup between these two teams, Golden State was firing on all cylinders on Monday night. The Warrior bench helped push the lead to as high as 13 points early in the second quarter and the game was in serious danger of slipping away, but Denver’s starters checked back in and the Nuggets were able to stop the bleeding.

Jokic went to work, operating out of the high post as the elite passer that he’s so often described to be. He picked Golden State’s defense apart with his playmaking prowess and found Mason Plumlee and Wilson Chandler for easy baskets in the paint. The big Serbian finished the half with 12 points on seven shots while picking up eight rebounds and seven assists.

Jamal Murray got hot as well. After finishing the first quarter 0-4 from the field, he hit five of his nine shot attempts in the second quarter and finished with 12 first-half points. Denver weathered the opening storm from Golden State and trailed just 64-57 as each team headed into the locker room.

No team in the league outscores opponents by more points in the third quarter than Golden State. The Nuggets, meanwhile, have posted the league’s third-best such mark. Something had to give here in the game’s most important quarter.

Jokic put his fingerprints all over the third quarter early. He dropped eight quick points and added a couple of assists to help the Nuggets come all the way back and tie the game at 69 with about seven minutes remaining. That’s when the splash brothers got it going.

Curry and Thompson combined for 12 points in the final six minutes of the third quarter as the Warriors pushed the lead back up to a game-high 14 points in the blink of an eye. After coming so close to their first lead of the night, Denver found themselves trailing by 12 at the start of the fourth.

Denver did their best to match Golden State’s overwhelming talent — and their starters really did play well — but no team has depth like the Warriors. That depth was on full display early in the fourth as the Warriors saw offensive contributions from Shaun Livingston, David West, and Nick Young as they pushed this game well out of Denver’s reach.

Curry led the way for Golden State with 32 points and 11 assists. Nikola Jokic picked up his first triple-double of the year with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Following the loss, the Nuggets fall to 21-19 on the year, 7-15 away from home and 12-12 in the conference. They’ll have Tuesday off before hosting the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.

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