Remember Dikembe Mutombos’ finger wag? Nuggets Nation may have the next polarizing signature move, the Jokers no look pass…
The Denver Nuggets we able to execute the game plan early on against Golden State and avoided coming out sluggish. It was apparent early on that down low was going to be the best way to exploit Golden States weakness, if such a thing existed. Both of the Nugget talented big men, Nurkic and Jokic, found much success in the restricted area early on. Mile High Basketball was in full effect tonight with the team tallying up 60 points in the paint. Everyone on the team was getting in on the action, making sure it was an issue to get high percentage looks and not settling for the momentum killer–the dreaded outside shot that the Nuggets have become so accustomed to. By working hard to get good shots, they carried out that theme through the first half.
With a strong understanding of the importance to a strong start now established, what ensued was a fun brand of basketball. Distribution and even scoring really made up the foundation for the first half of play. Gary Harris had a great rebound and worked around Klay Thompson to get a high percentage tough layup. These were the type of plays that the first two quarters of play were made of and the kind that had Denver in the game early on. The defense was paying attention to make sure that the hot shooting Warriors, 52.6% against the Nuggets tonight, had at least a hand in the face and in the passing lane to be at a minimum, a nuisance on the defense end. The Warriors were still able to string together a few shooting sprees throughout the first two quarters of play, even with that attention to detail.
Gary may not have had the highest stats of the quarter but his intangibles really make this Nuggets team fire on all pistons. He provided some of the quietest, most impactful plays on the court for the Denver Nuggets. The big men kept on the path of destruction, executing a flurry of pick and roll plays to punish Warriors down low.
Although there were similarities reminiscent of the first half, the Nuggets started to make some more mistakes, turnovers, and defensive lapses, all while not capitalizing on the opportunities that they had previously been taking advantage of in the 1st half of play. Golden State started to pull away early in the 3rd getting out to a 10 point advantage, their largest lead in the game at that point, before Malone called for a time out to regroup the boys. Remember the thing I said they were avoiding in the first half? Well they started settling for them in the 3rd quarter, perhaps a sign that we came out too lackadaisical after the half. It seems to be a recurring issue with this particular Nuggets squad. At one point or another Nugget loyalist’s seem to find themselves rolling their eyes, one missed outside shot, after missed outside shot, it’s becoming as ritualized as the Jokers no look passes. It took the wind out of the sails as a viewer. Even with the 7-foot point guard dribbling from coast to coast, putting on a show for Warriors fans to enjoy.Click here to check it out again!
Jokic’s filthy around the back to go around Draymond Green, nice All-Star step to split Thompson and Kevin Durant, and finish with that astounding 2-inch vertical for the flush had my jaw hanging. In all seriousness, to see a big man with the ability to string multiple moves together while in transition like he did is astounding. The game was now only a 6 point game and the Nuggets were once again showing some fight, only to settle for more jumpers! Every time Nuggets would get a few good shots and catch some momentum, someone would find a way to make an unforced turnover or bad cross court pass. Plays like this aided the Warriors in getting comfortable with their shot selection.
As big fan of college hoops, I’ve come to notice a type of formula that happens when the underdog team comes to play the goliath of the league. In the 1st half, often times the underdog will come out scrappy and full of heart, perhaps taking the lead a few times or even creating a decent lead by half time. But something typically gets revealed in the 2nd half. The more well-rounded team that has a better understanding of itself tends to wear out the energy of the scrappy guys and starts putting in work. This was certainly the tale of tonight’s game. And while I find the term “scheduled loss” disrespectful and unpatriotic, I do believe there are games where you will have the opportunity to come out and show what you’re made of and learn from the best by playing against them. Although the Denver Nuggets would never seem to recover from that 10 point pull away that Golden State put together in the 3rd, Golden state could really never figure out a way to pull away by more than 12 points until late in the 4th. This is the silver lining. The Nuggets came out and showed they were not backing down. Not to Steph Curry or Green or Durant. That although we have some work to put in, this team is highly capable of becoming a legitimate threat in a battle-hardened Western Division. IF Mile High Basketball can be played in even just three of the quarters, much like they did in the first half, we automatically become a contending team that wins the games we should be winning and make other teams around the league take the time to strategize thoroughly.
Nugget of the Night: Jusuf Nurkic
The Bosnian Beast has had a rough previous month. From losing his starting spot to the much deserving Jokic and racking up multipliable DNP-CD’s, tonight he came out and showed that his skill set still has a high ceiling. Whatever has been going on between the big fella and coach will hopefully be sorted out soon. Someone with his caliber of skill should not be sitting an entire game unless physically inept to do so. Even if coach is just trying to discipline him and fortify his mental toughness, we must find a way to get this kid meaningful minute’s like tonight.