The Golden State Warriors proved they’re good counter punchers, withstanding a fired-up Denver Nuggets team that finally took the fight to them instead of the officials and each other.
Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole scored 27 points each, Klay Thompson made six 3-pointers on his way to 26 points and the Warriors muscled past the Nuggets 118-113 Thursday night to take a 3-0 lead in their playoff series.
“It’s a Poole party!” Thompson hollered as he interrupted Poole’s post-game television interview.
Draymond Green added a key steal from Nikola Jokic, who finished with 37 points and 18 rebounds, in the final minute and the Warriors closed on a 9-2 run to put the Nuggets on the cusp of elimination.
“We played great down the stretch on both” ends of the court, Thompson said.
Andrew Wiggins hit a second-chance 3-pointer to put Golden State ahead for good 112-111, and Green, who played the final four minutes with five fouls, came up big by poking the ball away from Jokic with 40 seconds left.
“For Draymond to battle him all night and to make that play in the end was just a huge part of the win,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
NBA teams in a 3-0 hole are 0-143 all-time in the playoffs, and Golden State can sweep the series Sunday in Denver.
After two blowouts in San Francisco, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, “I know that this sounds weird because it was a loss and there are no moral victories, I get that. But we gave ourselves a chance tonight. We didn’t do that in Golden State. We put ourselves in a position late to beat a very good basketball team.”
After the Nuggets bickered with each other on the bench and Jokic got ejected for hollering at an official in Game 2, they stuck together and stayed in this game until the end.
“I love how we fought tonight,” said Malone, who challenged his team to replicate that effort Sunday: “Are we going to roll over? Are we going to fight like hell and send this back to Golden State?”
DeMarcus Cousins said Malone needn’t wonder.
“I’ve been a fighter my whole life. I know how I’m approaching it,” Cousins said. “And I expect everyone else in that locker room to do the same. ... I’m a fighter, I’ll go out swinging.”
The Nuggets were in control for much of the second half, but after Jokic’s finger roll layup put Denver ahead 111-109 with 3:20 left, the Warriors turned away Denver on six straight possessions while pulling away.
Aaron Gordon added 18 points for the Nuggets, who lost for the seventh straight time in the postseason. The other six losses were by an average of 16 points.
Down by 10 at the half, the Nuggets came out with renewed energy and used a 30-18 third quarter to take an 89-87 lead.
Without max players Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (back), the Nuggets knew they had to slow the pace because they cannot keep up with these healthy and hungry Warriors.
“We’re in a Pinto, and they’re in a Maserati,” Malone quipped.
Kerr chuckled at the analogy, noting he’s never owned either model.
There’s no denying his team is turbo-charged, however, after missing the playoffs the last two seasons.
“I think in some ways, we are reinvigorated,” Kerr said.
Curry sure seems to be having fun again.
Coming out of a timeout in the third quarter he spotted Peyton Manning sitting courtside and went and shared a handshake, a few words and some smiles before helping the Warriors absorb every body blow coming their way.
“It was a lovely environment,” Curry said. “I love the way we responded.”
Thompson, who missed much of the last two seasons with knee injuries, relished pulling out the win in a hostile environment the way the Warriors used to do so often during their championship runs.
“It’s what you dream of. It’s what you prepare for and I don’t take for granted nights like these,” Thompson said. “That was a ton of fun and just a gutsy win by our squad.
“Everything I’ve worked for the last two years has come to fruition, and I’m just incredibly grateful to be here and having fun.”
Green rolled his left ankle midway through the third quarter but stayed in the game. Poole went to the bench a short time later, grabbing his left elbow. Trainers put a heating pad on his left elbow and forearm but he returned to action.
Warriors: Curry has at least one 3-pointer in an NBA-best 115 consecutive playoff games. ... The Warriors shot 68% from the floor in the first half and six different players combined for a dozen 3-pointers. ... Thompson (388) now in sole possession of third on NBA Playoffs all-time 3-pointers list, passing Ray Allen (385).
Nuggets: Denver has allowed Golden State to go on second-quarter runs of 16-0 in Game 1, 15-2 in Game 2 and 15-4 in Game 3. ... The first sign of the Nuggets’ more aggressive play came in the first quarter when Jokic hip-checked Curry to the floor but didn’t draw a whistle. (AP)
(Photo credits to: AP)