With Monta missing his first game all season with a concussion, the Warriors had every excuse to come out flat. The altitude, the heavy minutes from last night, the stellar defense of the post-Melo Nuggets were all working against them. Still, the Warriors matched Denver shot for shot, stop for stop. When they needed a bucket, Curry found the bottom of the net. When the defense broke down, Udoh came to save the day. It was a scintillating game for three quarters, but eventually all the forces weighing them down finally put an end to the Warriors’ improbable chance of winning.
The Nuggets were simply too deep and too rested to lose this game. Every push the Warriors made was met by a dunk by birdman, a three by J.R., or a driving layup by Lawson. Every Nuggets player, save Ely who played two minutes, scored double digits. This may sound unimpressive, but consider that a total of nine players scored at least 10 points and you’ll begin to grasp just how well-rounded their roster is. Throw in a few DNPs from Gallinari, Chandler, and Harrington, and you have two legitimate starting lineups. Take a gander:
PG – Ty Lawson
SG – Arron Afflalo
SF – Danilo Gallinari
PF – Kenyon Martin
C – Nene Hilario
PG – Raymond Felton
SG – J.R. Smith
SF – Wilson Chandler
PF – Al Harrington
C – Chris Andersen
The result is a 48-minute, high-energy onslaught on both ends of the floor. I would not be surprised to see this team reach the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors played valiantly, but being shorthanded against these Nuggets is a recipe for a blowout. It took four quarters, but Denver got their lopsided victory.
* * *
1st Star: Stephen Curry
By playing only 32 minutes in the previous game Steph had the legs to shoot an impressive 10-13 from the field, good for 27 points. He also chipped in five rebounds and assists for a well-rounded effort with Monta sitting. You could tell he struggled a bit with the ball in his hands more, committing a game-high five turnovers. Still 27 on 13 shots is undeniably good.
2nd Star: Dorell Wright
Loved to see him attack a bit more against Denver, but as a scorer he’s not yet effective enough to warrant 20 shots a night. Unfortunately, Lee took a seat early, limiting an already limited lineup. Dorell needs to fulfill to role of a spot-up shooter and lockdown defender, the former being nearly there. Mix in a few drives after establishing himself as a threat from deep, and Wright will be an indispensable piece come next season. 27 points with five rebounds, two steals, and a perfect 7-7 showing at the line.
3rd Star: Ekpe Udoh
A career-high six blocks for the rookie, which should’ve been much more impactful. The Nuggets were never afraid of going inside because much of scoring was done on dunks and putbacks. They knew that once Udoh went up to block a shot, the rebounding advantage drastically shifted towards them. Still, it was great to see him play 30 minutes and not be in foul trouble. That’s half of the equation, now he just needs to start cleaning some glass.
* * *
Jeremy Lin: He’s still not showing me much, but he does seem to have great court awareness. Like any player he can get caught ball-watching, but he’s got a keen sense for deflecting passes and chasing down loose balls. It’s not much, but at least he’s got good instincts.
Lou Amundson: It was kind of fun watching him and Nene go at it, until the referee inexplicably called a foul on Lou when Nene purposely lowered his shoulder into him. The dude deserves more respect, but I’m afraid he’ll never get it.
Denver’s balance of scoring: As mentioned before, 9 of the 10 Nuggets scored in double digits. That’s insane. That kind of distribution is not only a rarity, but a testament to the team concept they have adopted in the post-Melo era. Having Birdman drop 14 and Koufos, fourth on the dept chart, tally up 18 is never a welcomed sight. Yes, the Warriors were terrible with the box outs, but they both earned their points with effort and skill. With points raining in from every part of the court, it truly made the Nuggets’ offense unpredictable.
Ty Lawson: At 5’11” he plays like he’s 6’3″. He’s quick and powerful, like a more compact Westbrook. I’ll be surprised if he never becomes an All-Star.
Threes: In the first half, the Nuggets couldn’t hit from deep. In the second, they couldn’t miss en route to a 44-point third quarter. The Warriors were smart to let them keep firing away, but unfortunately they found their stroke.
The More You Know: I wanted to find some precedence for the Nuggets’ impressive scoring distribution, but I had no luck. Perhaps someone could help out?
* * *
The season finale comes against the Blazers at Oracle. Monta is expected to sit out again, so the Warriors should be looking to imitate the Nuggets’ offense from last night. The Blazers will be looking to close out the season strong before heading into the playoffs. Curry tweaked his ankle in the final quarter, but I expect him to start for the final game of the season. Win or lose, I’d like to see Golden State bring the same physicality and intensity they showed in Portland. If they do, they should at least give themselves a good opportunity to win. 104-99.