Warriors use three-point barrage to extend Nuggets' slide
Nuggets coach George Karl is mildly superstitious.
Black cats and ladders don’t bother him. Losing streaks are another story.
After his Real Madrid soccer jersey failed to produce a victory on Wednesday, he shaved the goatee he had been growing for the previous three months on Thursday.
Though newly shorn, Karl was left forlorn once again after the Nuggets were done in by a three-point barrage by Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
Curry hit six of Golden State’s 14 three-pointers and scored a season-high 36 points to lead the Warriors to a 109-101 victory over the Nuggets at Pepsi Center. It was Denver’s fifth straight loss and seventh in the past eight games.
With his players mentally and physically fatigued after six games in eight nights, Karl told them to meet at the plane Friday for a quick one-game trip to Indianapolis. He expects the Nuggets to come out recharged for Saturday’s game against the Indiana Pacers.
More accurately, Karl doesn’t expect a newfound energy as much as he will demand it.
“If you don’t have energy, maybe we’ll have to go somewhere else,” Karl said. “It has nothing to do with your skills right now. We need energy to play with tempo and pace and not play like we’re in mud or the old guys at the rec center.
“We’ve got to run up and down the court. That’s what we committed to and that’s what got us a lot of our wins this year. I don’t think I’m going to back off of it.”
In winning 14 of their first 19 games, the Nuggets pushed the pace, attacked the paint and created turnovers on defense that led to easy baskets on offense.
During Denver’s longest losing streak in five years, the opposition is averaging 104.6 points and connecting on 10.2 three-pointers per game.
The third quarter Thursday night served as a summary of the defensive struggles. Trailing 51-47 at halftime, the Warriors opened the second half on a 24-5 run and never looked back. They made 14 of 20 shots in the quarter and outscored Denver 37-20.
“It was horrible. It was horrible,” Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo said. “You’ve got to give the Warriors credit. But on our home floor, that was horrible.”
Afflalo finished with a season-high 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting, but the Nuggets couldn’t find much of a secondary scoring option in the second half.
After making all five of his shots and scoring 12 points in the first half, Nene finished with 15 points. Rudy Fernandez scored nine points in the opening quarter and then went scoreless the rest of the way.
“There’s a fatigue out there, there’s no question,” Karl said. “That happens a lot in the NBA and you have to figure out how to win the game. That can’t be our excuse.”
Karl was encouraged by the fresh legs of rookies Kenneth Faried, Jordan Hamilton and Julyan Stone. Along with Afflalo and Kosta Koufos, the trio helped fuel an 11-0 run that cut a 20-point deficit to nine with 1:33 remaining.
Denver got within eight, but the rally was about 23 minutes too late.
“We stopped doing things we were doing earlier,” Faried said. “I blame myself for that because I was supposed to bring the energy and get guys going. We just need to stay focused. We can’t stay down on each other. We’ve got to stay hungry.
“Of course there’s frustration, nobody wants to lose. But we’re going to keep pushing each other to get better. With limited practices, it’s going to be hard, but we’re still going to try to focus on objectives, listen to coach and try to play right.”
With starting big men Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov sidelined by injuries, Faried made his second start in three games and posted career highs with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Karl also started Fernandez but could have another option if reserve forward Corey Brewer rejoins the team Saturday in Indiana. Brewer has missed the past three games for personal reasons.
Mozgov, who has missed four games with a sprained left ankle, is improving but Karl did not expect the 7-foot-1 center to be ready by Saturday. Gallinari remains out indefinitely.
Despite the unforgiving schedule, injuries and fatigue are not valid excuses as the Nuggets (15-12) try to end their slide and keep pace in the Western Conference.
“I hope we feel together on it,” Karl said. “I hope we all feel frustrated and worried and are motivated to do something about it.”