Sports

/

ArcaMax

Nikola Jokic dominates as Nuggets rally for seventh consecutive win over Golden State Warriors

Bennett Durando, The Denver Post on

Published in Basketball

SAN FRANCISCO — Maybe the Nuggets have bigger fish to fry than this final chunk of the regular season, like coach Michael Malone emphasized after the All-Star break. But when the defending champions encounter an opponent desperately trying to capitalize on a hot streak and climb back into contention, their natural instinct will always be to match the playoff-esque degree of competitiveness.

So when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drilled an open transition 3-pointer with seven minutes remaining in another roller coaster of a road game at Golden State, even the stoic Nikola Jokic let out an emphatic bellow from the Warriors logo at mid-court.

It was reminiscent of the reaction he had a few lumbering steps away from that spot in January when his deep 3-pointer beat the buzzer and the Warriors. He was the passer this time on Caldwell-Pope’s three, which gave Denver a 10-point lead in a stirring 119-103 grudge-match win Sunday.

Jokic amassed 32 points, 16 rebounds, 16 assists and four steals, playing through intense physicality in his first matchup this season against Draymond Green. Jamal Murray added 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting after missing the first half of this road trip and remaining questionable with tibia inflammation up until game-time Sunday.

Caldwell-Pope’s three made it 102-92. Jokic’s passion was infectious. Zeke Nnaji flexed to his bench after a chase-down block moments later, then Christian Braun replicated Jokic’s yell after his own 3-pointer extended the lead to 105-94. The Nuggets (39-19) were pulling away for their seventh consecutive win against Golden State.

The first half followed the blueprint of the Nuggets’ last Bay Area visit all the way to completion in a fraction of the time. Denver’s defensive engagement was lackluster, especially during the first few minutes of the second quarter without Jokic and Caldwell-Pope on the floor. Klay Thompson, in the middle of an emotionally tumultuous season, shot the three at a high level — 23 points on 5-of-10 outside shooting to mirror his 24-point, 4-for-10 game Jan. 4. And most vitally, just when it seemed the Nuggets were sleep-walking toward a forgettable road loss, their starters reignited the team’s engine.

 

A sudden 14-0 run sent Denver into halftime tied at 61. Jokic was already within reach of another a triple-double, and Murray had climbed to 18 points after ending the first quarter with two. Inventiveness replaced lethargy; Murray at one point during the run flung an intentional missed shot at the rim in lieu of a pass upon spotting Jokic’s positioning under the basket. Jokic and Caldwell-Pope blitzed Curry on a ball-screen to pick his pocket as time expired, accentuating Curry’s four-point half without a made three.

But this rematch still had more chapters to get through. Jokic and Murray led the Nuggets on another 14-0 run minutes into the third quarter to open their down double-digit lead. Golden State swiftly negated that in the third despite Thompson not scoring any more. Curry replaced his production with a 14-point frame. But Jokic comfortably had a triple-double before the fourth quarter — for the third straight game.

And Malone, hoping to avoid the same result from Jokic’s previous rest minutes, got creative with his lineups. The version of the second unit that opened the fourth quarter after Jokic played the entire third: Murray, Reggie Jackson, Michael Porter Jr., Nnaji and Aaron Gordon. Braun was the first to check in, replacing Jackson. Both Braun and Nnaji supplied big plays down the stretch, combining for 13 points and six rebounds.

_____


©2024 MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at denverpost.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus