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5 takeaways from the Nuggets' impressive win over the Warriors

After avoiding a scary injury, reigning Kia MVP Nikola Jokic showcased his brilliant IQ in making the play of the game.


The reigning Kia MVP and Finals MVP squared off on Friday night.

SAN FRANCISCO — The Nuggets’ season is only two games old and it’s already weird. One night, they fall to the stripped-down, rebuilding Jazz, which qualified as the eye-opening result on a busy Wednesday night. In the next game, fueled by a triple-double from Nikola Jokic, they beat the defending champion Warriors while Jamal Murray sits.

This quirkiness happens over the course of a season to every team. But all in the first week for Denver? Well then.

Here are five takeaways from the Nuggets’ 128-123 win over the Warriors on Friday:

 1. Jokic was this close from a potential major injury

In the final frantic seconds of a suddenly-tight game, Jokic and Draymond Green scrambled for a loose ball. Jokic fell awkwardly and his leg appeared to be wedged between Green and the floor. The replays looked grim and Jokic hesitated before rising to his feet. Green seemingly erased any sinister involvement by hustling over immediately and checking on Jokic. The reigning Kia MVP finished out the contest and also made the play of the game by instinctively firing a full-length inbounds pass for a dunk right after the Warriors closed within one point with 14.7 seconds left on a Jordan Poole layup. 

“His IQ is just off the charts,” gushed Nuggets coach Michael Malone.

Not only did it seal the win, but it was also his 10th assist of the night, securing the triple-double. Jokic is now one shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain for most career triples by a center, although this deserves some clarity. The NBA didn’t keep track of blocked shots during the majority of Wilt’s career, and those who played against him would insist that Wilt had many games with double-figure blocked shots along with points and rebounds. Anyway, it shouldn’t diminish what Jokic, the greatest second-round pick in NBA history, has done. And if he gets a third straight MVP award, well, it would put him in a class with Larry Bird.

2. There’s no Draymond Drama spillover

Contrary to the perception beyond the organization — because Draymond As A Problem is the sexier story — it’s business as usual for the Warriors two weeks after Green’s punch set the hoop world ablaze. Well, let’s clarify: If the Warriors were a developing team, or even a middle-of-the-pack team, there might be grave internal issues. In that case, Green would be expendable, given his age. But being title contenders, it’s easier for the Warriors to chalk it up as Draymond being Draymond and move forward. There’s too much at stake.

He has value — Draymond proved as much with an energetic performance Friday on both ends — and the Warriors are a strong favorite to repeat. It’s really that simple, and putting the incident to bed was made easier once Poole received a fat contract extension, which pacified him. It all appears normal for the Warriors two games into the season. Green and Poole aren’t just passing each other the ball, they’re even exchanging hi-fives. Take that for whatever it’s worth.

3. Poole is getting lots of attention in other ways, too

jordan poole

Defenses have been paying closer attention to Jordan Poole so far this season.

After his breakout season a year ago and subsequent contract extension, Poole has made himself a target — other teams are paying him a level of respect. Basically, they’re not allowing him clean looks at the hoop. For the second straight game, Poole struggled with his shot and he’s now 6-for-20 from the floor. Again, it’s just two games.

However, Poole must get used to being defended tightly, which the Nuggets did Friday. In a sense, teams won’t allow him to catch them by surprise anymore. It’s really a badge of honor for Poole, and will force him to adjust accordingly and work better for those shots. There is a bright side for him — he’ll never get the Steph Curry Treatment from opposing teams, no matter how much he adjusts and improves.  

4. Denver will feed Jamal Murray some McNugget minutes

Murray was a scratch against the Warriors, even though his team didn’t play the night before and even though he played only 26 minutes in the season opener. And this will be the pattern between now and perhaps until late December as the Nuggets tread carefully with a star who missed all of last season following 2021 knee surgery. The Warriors’ game was the first of a back-to-back and Saturday’s game with Oklahoma City is the Nuggets’ home opener (9 ET, NBA League Pass), so it made sense to rest Murray Friday and allow him to get that welcome-back ovation in Denver. Plus, he was spared the task of chasing Curry and Poole around the floor.

Malone said managing Murray will be a process but quickly added, “he’s our guy,” meaning the Nuggets have faith in him and his chances of returning to his talented form. Remember, Murray was a star in the Orlando bubble, highlighted by that playoff shootout duel with Donovan Mitchell, and led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals that year. He followed up strong in 2020-21 before the injury in the spring. Malone said Murray will probably have some good and bad nights until he regains his rhythm and confidence and strength. And they’re willing to wait … and deal with any potential stumble in the standings.

5. But … Bruce Brown

The Nuggets grabbed the free agent guard for an economical price (two years, $13 million) in the offseason, and he’s looking like a bargain while Murray deals with a minutes restriction. Brown had a decent run in Brooklyn and brings better defensive chops than Murray. The Nuggets essentially used him to replace Monte Morris, who was traded to the Wizards. So far, the returns are good.

Brown had a solid night against the Warriors (20 points, five assists) and should see decent minutes until Murray is able to play regular minutes. Not only is Brown’s contribution crucial during this time, but also that of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who also brings defense along with corner shooting. He added 17 points and a pair of steals against the Warriors.

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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