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Denver Nuggets 89, Golden State Warriors 86: Three Takeaways

It isn’t always pretty, but it was effective. The Denver Nuggets used lockdown defense and a game-saving block from reigning MVP Nikola Jokić to pull out an 89-86 road win over the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night. Despite shooting 41.2 percent from the field, the Mile High squad forced 18 turnovers and withstood a cold shooting streak on offense in the second half to head back to Denver with the victory.

Denver used active defense to build an early 12-4 lead through the first four minutes of action. The Nuggets forced four turnovers during that early stretch and hit five of their first eight shot attempts. With Will Barton catching fire on the offensive end, Denver continued to take advantage of Golden State’s mistakes on the defensive end and extended the lead to 15 late in the frame. Fueled by 14 points from Barton and eight Warriors turnovers, the Nuggets took a 31-16 lead into the second quarter.

Denver not only maintained its double-digit lead to begin the second quarter, but actually extended it to 16 as Facundo Campazzo, JaMychal Green, and Bones Hyland fueling early success for the second unit. The Nuggets held a 21-point advantage near the midway point of the frame as both teams went back to their starters. The lead grew to 24 at the break, with Denver up 60-36. Barton finished the half with 17 points, while the Nuggets limited Steph Curry to just two points.

Although Denver went the first three minutes of the third quarter without a point, Golden State wasn’t able to take advantage as the lead remained at 23 early in the second half. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, their cold stretch continued in the subsequent minutes as the Warriors used an 11-0 run to get within 12 points at 65-53. Denver could only muster 14 points in the quarter but held onto a double-digit, 74-61 lead into the final quarter.

The Warriors continued to chip away at Denver’s lead and eventually got within single digits at 79-74 with seven minutes remaining in the game. The Nuggets couldn’t pull away in the ensuing minutes as the two teams traded defensive stops down the stretch. A 3-pointer from Curry cut Denver’s lead down to three at 82-79 with just under three minutes remaining. Golden State tied the game at 84 with one minute remaining, but four-straight points from Barton gave Denver an 88-84 lead with 32 seconds left.

A crucial block at the rim by Jokić preserved Denver’s two-point lead with 2.5 seconds remaining, and a last second 3-point attempt from Andre Iguodala fell short at the buzzer.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s win.

Denver locked in defensively

Holding Steph Curry to two points and the Warriors as a team to 36 in a half of basketball is a good recipe for success.

Denver’s defense came to play Tuesday night at Chase Center, as the Nuggets held Golden State to 37.8 percent shooting from the field, including 4-of-17 from beyond the arc in the first 24 minutes of action. Another key factor in the first half success was Denver’s ability to force turnovers and capitalize on them, as the Mile High squad scored 13 points off Golden State’s 10 first-half turnovers.

The Mile High squad continued its admirable effort on the defensive end in the second half, with the 86 points marking a new season-low for Golden State.

Nuggets’ offense went cold in the second half

It was a tale of two halves for the Nuggets’ offense Tuesday night. After scoring 60 points on 57.1 percent shooting in the first two quarters, Denver’s offense came to a screeching halt in the third frame with just 14 points and six turnovers.

The Nuggets’ luck didn’t get much better in the fourth quarter, which resulted in a 29-point second half. Denver actually finished Tuesday’s game with a lower field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage, despite picking up the win.

Luckily for the Nuggets, their defense kept them in the lead for the majority of Tuesday’s contest but sharpening the offensive execution for 48 minutes will be key if they hope for a repeat performance against Golden State on Thursday.

Turnovers highlighted struggles for both teams

Tuesday’s contest was not a pretty sight for fans of elite offense and shot-making. Both teams shot below 43 percent and scored under 90 points, with a big reason for those struggles being turnovers.

Golden State committed 18 on the night, while Denver wasn’t too far behind at 16. However, the key difference was the effectiveness converting off those mistakes, as the Nuggets scored 15 points of the Warriors’ turnovers, while the Warriors only scored seven points off Denver’s mistakes. For head coach Michael Malone, Denver’s defensive effort Tuesday night should certainly spark confidence heading into the new year.

The Nuggets are back in action when they host the Warriors Thursday night (7:30 p.m. MT).