Denver Nuggets 134, Golden State Warriors 131 (OT): Three takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

Despite being on the second night of a back-to-back and playing without three starters, the Denver Nuggets didn’t waive the white flag at any point Thursday night. A 19-point comeback in the second half led to a 134-131 victory in overtime. From standout performances off the bench to impressive resiliency across the board, it was a gut-check performance from Denver to sweep their back-to-back set.

"Yea that was a good win for us," Mason Plumlee said. "We started off slow but when it was all said and done we came out on top, so it's all good."

The Warriors came out firing from beyond the arc to open the game, as their first four made baskets were all 3-pointers. That hot shooting coupled with a cold spell from Denver led to an early 12-5 start for Golden State. The Warriors maintained control throughout the first quarter as the Nuggets’ offense couldn’t find a rhythm. Golden State held a 34-19 lead after one quarter of play. The Warriors made seven 3-pointers in the quarter, while the Nuggets made five total baskets.

The Nuggets slowly chipped away at the deficit to begin the second as Michael Malone opted to have Nikola Jokić on the floor, a change from the team’s usual lineup rotation. It was a role reversal between the teams in the second quarter, as Denver used the 3-point line to get back into the game. Within the first six minutes of the quarter, the Nuggets had connected on four 3-pointers, which when combined with tighter defense cut the deficit down to just five points at 46-41. However, Golden State recovered well and closed the half on a 16-4 run to push its lead to 62-45 at the halftime break.

Despite their best efforts, the Nuggets couldn’t cut into Golden State’s lead to begin the second half. The Warriors continued to bomb away from deep and boosted their lead to 19 points within the first four minutes of the third quarter. The Nuggets’ comeback attempt was fueled by Malik Beasley during the middle stages of the quarter, as he knocked down a 3-pointer, assisted on another and got a steal on the defensive end. Despite getting within eight points late in the quarter, Denver struggled to take care of the ball and fell down 85-73 after three.

A quick 7-2 run by the Nuggets cut Golden State’s lead down to 87-80 with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game. Beasley and Michael Porter Jr. combined for 10-straight points for Denver, which cut the deficit down to two points with five minutes remaining in the fourth. With just over one minute left in regulation, Porter Jr. secured an offensive rebound and completed an and-one putback to give Denver its first lead since an early 3-0 lead in the first quarter. The two teams traded baskets in the final minute before Alec Burks missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.

Neither team could generate a stop on defense to begin the overtime period. Mason Plumlee was active in the extra period with two putback dunks, the latter of which gave Denver a 125-121 lead with 1:40 remaining. The Nuggets wouldn’t surrender the lead again and closed out the impressive comeback at the free-throw line.

"We started sharing the ball and took it possession-by-possession," Plumlee said when asked about the effectiveness of the closing lineup. "We didn't try to get it all back on one play. We did a really good job of sticking together down the stretch."

Here are three takeaways from Denver’s win:

An explosive 3-point shooting competition

No, you weren’t watching the 2020 NBA 3-point contest on Thursday night. However, both teams used the long ball to pace their respective offenses, as the two teams combined for 37 3-pointers. Neither team came into Thursday’s contest with a sweet-shooting reputation, but there were plenty of quality looks and timely shots that were knocked down throughout the night.

However, Denver has to be disappointed with its inability to defend the 3-point line well, which the Nuggets have done all season. The Warriors ranked in the bottom five in 3-point percentage ahead of Wednesday’s game, but found themselves open early and often from deep, which led to their impressive shooting performance.

Barton III led the charge

With Denver down three starters on Thursday, it was expected that other players would have to step up if the Nuggets were to have a chance. Well, Barton III certainly answered the call, as he finished with a season-high 31 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 43 minutes of action.

Denver’s veteran wing had the three-ball falling. He tied a career-high, knocking down 7 of 10 attempts from deep and was able to score from all areas of the floor. In what has become the norm for him this season, Barton III also chipped in on the boards and moved the ball effectively.

Denver’s young wings stood out off the bench

Despite receiving inconsistent playing time in recent games, Beasley was more than ready to step up for a shorthanded Nuggets team on Thursday. In his 39 minutes, Beasley finished with a season-high 27 points and three steals and was +23 on the night. With Jamal Murray potentially out for several more games, Beasley may continue to receive playing time on the second unit, where his natural shooting stroke and shot-making abilities are key to fueling the offense. Thursday was a sign that the 22-year-old guard will be ready when his number is called upon.

Meanwhile, Porter Jr. came alive in the second half and finished with a well-rounded game. The 21-year-old forward logged his first career double-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes of action. Both players were called on to close the game in the fourth quarter and overtime, a sign of Malone’s trust in the two.

Bonus observations

1) Despite a slow start in the first half, Jokić took over in the second half and finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. The Nuggets were able to close the game without a traditional point guard, which surrounded more floor-spacing and rebounding around Jokić.

2) While Porter Jr. and Beasley will get the most recognition for their performances on the second-unit, Plumlee served as somewhat of an unsung hero with 15 points, a season-high 15 rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes of action.

3) Denver overcame 20 turnovers on Thursday and finished with 31 assists. The ball movement really picked up in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Nuggets seemingly couldn’t miss.

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