How do you beat this Golden State Warriors team?
There have been thousands of words written on the topic: full-fledged operations, handy step-by-step guides, and even opponents’ blueprints. Heck, our own Kevin O’Connor devoted nearly 3,000 of his own words to the confounding question.
Turns out all we had to do was ask Mike Malone and his Denver Nuggets. The way to beat the Warriors is to become the Warriors.
Missing six of their players, the Nuggets entered the sold-out home game with the worst defense in the league, primed to be blown out. Instead, they said to hell with it and took a page out of the Warriors’ own playbook: Make every 3. Simple.
The Nuggets, currently the 8-seed in the West, had been averaging a mere 10 3s a game heading into Monday night’s clash. They hit 16 3s and scored 79 points in the first half alone, including 42 in the first quarter — the most a team has scored on the Warriors in a quarter this season, according to the broadcast. The Nuggets had 107 through three quarters (this is a team that has scored 106 or less 23 times this season) and finished with 132 — tied for the most a team has hung on the Warriors this season.
Serbian sensation Nikola Jokic led the charge with 17 points, 21 rebounds (a career high), and 12 assists — his second career triple-double. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Draymond Green, scored three of his five points from the free throw line and found only two rebounds. As Steph Curry hit only one of his 11 attempted 3s and four of his 18 field goals, the greatest name going in basketball right now — Juancho Hernangomez — made six 3s and scored 27 points.
No one was missing shots on Monday. Will Barton made four 3s, while Kevin Durant made only two. Jameer Nelson shook off the vet cobwebs, sinking five 3s. Even rookie Jamal Murray got in on the fun, scoring 14 in 23 minutes off the bench.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent out his bench in the fourth quarter, and Golden State cut a 28-point lead to single digits.
With 24 3s, tied for the most in a game in NBA history, the Nuggets handed the Warriors their ninth loss of the season.
Don’t tell me that it’s almost the All-Star break, or that the Warriors were missing Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston. Don’t remind me that playing in Denver requires an extra lung and an oxygen mask. And definitely don’t even think about telling me how the Warriors were in the final game of a three-game road trip.
Let the Warriors haters have this. Come April, when these teams possibly meet in the playoffs as the 1–8 matchup, Dubs fans can laugh in Nuggets fans’ faces. Come July, they’ll likely be able to rub it in with a second ring in three years. But for one night, probably one night only, the Nuggets answered our biggest question.