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Nuggets Wear Down Warriors in Fourth, Collect Big Victory
Big wins, like the one the Nuggets picked up on Saturday night against Golden State will always have a place to be celebrated. A record crowd at the Pepsi Center – 20,103 – celebrated the 115-108 win with them.
The Nuggets, however, are busily placing these victories in another pile: Expected wins.
“We can matchup against anybody,” said Will Barton.
In the post-game locker room, Barton gleamed from head to toe with mirrored aviator sunglass all the way down to crystal-encrusted high-top shoes. He is the personification of what the Nuggets want to be as a team – supremely confident, unshakable in the most adverse times, and always thirsting to come through in the biggest moments.
Barton came through for the Nuggets in the fourth quarter. Golden State had won 37 straight games when leading after the third quarter, and on Saturday night they took an 83-77 lead into the final 12 minutes. The Nuggets had, however, chopped a 12-point deficit in half to at least enter the final period with some momentum.
Then Barton took to the fore, scoring 10 points in the period while the Nuggets defense helped wear the Warriors down. The Nuggets outscored the Warriors 38-25 in the fourth and ended the game on an 11-4 run to put them away. Denver went 14-for-14 from the free throw line to keep the Warriors at bay.
The win tied the season series at 2-2 in the fourth and final meeting. The Nuggets have beaten the Warriors in a third of the time in the last 15 matchups. They are one of just a few teams to have beaten Golden State at least once in each of the last three seasons.
“I think it is a belief,” Malone said. “I think our guys believe in what we are doing, they believe in each other and they believe in themselves. … I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. … I thought the key to the game was in that third quarter; it was a 12-point game. Our second unit closes that quarter out in a big run, which keeps us in striking distance. And in the fourth quarter, we were able to wear them down, scored 38 points, which is unbelievable.”
And the Nuggets are doing all of this still without their big free agent signee, Paul Millsap. They also played Saturday night’s game without Mason Plumlee, who was out with a calf injury. Jamal Murray picked up a significant bruise on his right thigh in the first couple of minutes of the game, but played through it.
“That thing is going to be ugly in the morning,” said teammate Gary Harris of Murray’s bruise, with a slight cringe.
None of it, though, knocked the Nuggets off track. They battled through an imperfect first half to be down just one at halftime. Then, playing more composed basketball in the second half, proceeded to get a real foothold in the game until they came out on top.
It was the end of a difficult stretch of games against Boston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Golden State. The Nuggets finished those four with a 2-2 record, and it could have been 4-0 had two last-second shots gone down against the Celtics and Spurs. No matter what, the last two victories validated the optimism coming from the team after the losses to Boston and San Antonio.
Barton led all Nuggets with 25 points. Nikola Jokić had 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Trey Lyles finished with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Golden State’s Kevin Durant led all scorers with 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting and Stephen Curry added 24. Klay Thompson finished with 16 points, but had just four points in the final three quarters.
“To go 2-2 in this tough four-game stretch, we are not satisfied with that, but I love the fact that we have two games in a row against two great teams,” Malone said. “I am proud of our guys, but again, in this league, you can’t come up for air. You can’t take a break, you can’t relax. You have to stay at it and keep doing what we are doing no matter who we play.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter