Denver Nuggets 116, Golden State Warriors 118: Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

SAN FRANCISCO – The 2021 preseason hasn’t been short on drama for the Denver Nuggets through two games. Wednesday’s game against the Golden State Warriors played out similarly to Monday’s loss to the LA Clippers, with Denver falling 118-116 in San Francisco.

Denver jumped out early on the back of Nikola Jokić, who dropped 9 points and five rebounds in the first frame. However, the reigning MVP received support from PJ Dozier and JaMychal Green in the opening quarter, allowing the Nuggets to secure a 39-26 lead after 12 minutes.

However, the lead was cut throughout the second quarter as Golden State used elite 3-point shooting to storm back into Wednesday’s contest. Led by Stephen Curry (four) and Otto Porter Jr. (four), the Warriors knocked down 12 3-pointers in the first half, which helped them secure a 63-62 lead at the break. Jokić continued to dominate in the second frame and ultimately finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in his 16 minutes of action in the first half.

The Nuggets regained the lead early in the third quarter, with Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green leading the way throughout the frame. Green knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers late in the quarter, while timely shots from Gordon and Dozier allowed Denver to maintain the lead, ultimately pushing it to 89-84 heading into the final frame.

The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with the two teams tied at 103 with five minutes remaining. A personal 5-0 scoring run from Zeke Nnaji gave Denver a 110-109 lead with just over three minutes remaining, but Golden State quickly responded with back-to-back triples to build a 115-110 lead with two minutes remaining.

Just like Monday’s game, the contest against the Warriors went down to the final seconds, but a late foul by Zeke Nnaji on a 3-point attempt allowed Golden State to secure the win at the free throw line.

Here are three takeaways from Wednesday’s loss.

The MVP is back (and got buckets)

Jokić wasted no time going right back to work Wednesday, hitting a 3-pointer before scoring twice inside the paint within a span of a few minutes during the opening quarter. The second quarter was more of the same, as the Serbian big man scored from both inside and beyond the arc.

Jokić finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in his 16 minutes of action. Look for Jokić to gradually work his way into more playing time, having just re-joined the team in Los Angeles Monday. The early preseason results are certainly impressive given the time Jokić spent away from the team over the past week.

Balanced scoring attack fueled the offense

Jokić wasn’t alone Wednesday night, as Denver finished with six players in double figures. In addition to Jokić’s 17 points, Aaron Gordon (16), PJ Dozier (13), JaMychal Green (12), Bones Hyland (11), and Jeff Green (10) all scored in double-figures for Michael Malone’s squad.

Denver’s offensive output was a step up from Monday night, as the Nuggets shot 48.4 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from downtown. The Nuggets also racked up 28 assists, led by Hyland’s six dimes.

Hyland showcases the full arsenal

Speaking of the rookie guard, Hyland did a little bit of everything in his second NBA Preseason game. In 25 minutes of action, the 21-year-old guard finished with 11 points, six assists, and two steals.

Poor shooting from beyond the arc (1-of-5) hurt Hyland’s overall efficiency, as he shot 4-of-6 inside the arc, often using crafty body positioning and touch inside the paint. For Hyland to carve out playing time during the regular season, operating as a consistent bench scorer that is active on the defensive end is a pretty good recipe for success. For the most part, Wednesday’s game was another step in the right direction for Hyland.

Denver returns home to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday (7 p.m. MT).

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