What we learned as Warriors’ comeback falls short vs. Nuggets originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO — Coming off their best win of the season of Christmas Day, the Warriors were looking to build on that momentum. For the first three quarters of Tuesday’s game against the Denver Nuggets at Chase Center, there was no momentum in favor of Golden State.
It was the first time that the Warriors’ depleted roster looked as though it was affecting them as they came out flat and without the energy that usually defines their style of play.
The Warriors found a burst of energy in the fourth quarter fueled by much-improved defense and Steph Curry finding his shot, but it wasn’t quite enough, and instead, they fell to Denver 89-86.
Up until Tuesday night, the Warriors (27-7) have done a nice job at picking up any of the slack left there with players missing games because of injury management and COVID-19 protocols.
But it was obvious against the Nuggets (17-16) that what Draymond Green brings to the team can’t be replicated by anyone else. The Warriors clearly missed his facilitating, resulting in their offense being far more stagnant than usual. They shot just 42.9 percent from the floor and 32.3 percent from 3-point range. But Green’s absence was the most glaring on defense.
The Nuggets shot nearly 60 percent from the floor and over 45 percent from 3-point range in the first half. And their ability to get so scorching hot from beyond the arc was a result of missing Green’s ability to cover so much ground.
Here are three takeaways from the night:
Steph is the make-or-break factor
On a night where the Warriors were without Green, they really needed Curry to show up. And when it became apparent that Tuesday was not going to be his night, it became indicative of how the game would go for Golden State. And when he finally got going, the tides started to change for the Warriors.
The second half is when Curry started showing signs of life. His first three of the night came with just about three seconds left in the third quarter, which also happened to be his 3,000th career 3-pointer. He then hit several monster threes in the fourth quarter to get the Warriors within five, and another with just under three minutes left to get within three, and another to get within two with two minutes remaining.
Curry finished the night with 23 points on 6-of-16 shooting, including 5-of-14 from 3-point range but that doesn’t entirely paint the picture of how Curry’s night went.
Now, credit has to be given to Denver’s defense. Austin Rivers did a good job on Curry, as did Facundo Campazzo, who quickly has gotten a reputation as a pesky defender who gets under the skin of those he goes up against.
But, Curry also was just off. His six turnovers weren’t forced but instead were committed off of lost handles and poor passes. And a lot of his missed shots were ones he hits.
But as he has done so many times before, Curry got going when his team needed him to.
Welcome back, Wiggins
In his first game back after missing the last four — three because of health and safety protocols — Andrew Wiggins made his presence felt. Not only that, but he was the Warriors’ only source of offense for the majority of the night.
Wiggins scored 21 points on 8-of-20 shooting, eight rebounds, two steals and one block.
It became apparent what kind of night it was going to be for Wiggins quite quickly, as he scored seven of the Warriors’ first 11 points. Without Green, Jordan Poole and Damion Lee, having Wiggins’ offense back in the fold — especially when Curry had an off night — was welcomed.
Cold at the free-throw line
The Warriors finally had a game that saw them consistently going to the free-throw line. They shot 11 more free throws than Denver, however, they knocked down just 16 of their 31 attempts, good for only percent 51 percent.
Jonathan Kuminga struggled the most from the free-throw line, going 3-for-10. Although, Juan Toscano-Anderson, who shot 1-for-6, didn’t have a good night at the strip either.
For Kuminga, who is shooting 65 percent from the line on the season — it will be imperative for him to improve his free-throw shooting. He has shown that he can use his size, strength and athleticism to bully his way into the paint and fight through contact. And with that will come a good amount of fouls drawn. Now, he has to take advantage of the opportunities he’s bound to get.