Pick it up and try again - Warriors go back for more against the Nuggets
Jordan Poole, Moses Moody clear Covid protocols and should return to action
Despite being down by as much as 24 points to the Denver Nuggets, the Golden State Warriors almost managed to pull it back together to steal the win at home. A couple of friendly bounces, or Otto Porter seeing that Stephen Curry was wide open for a three instead of dumping it to Kuminga, and the previous game’s results could have easily been different. Now, after a day spent flying into Denver, the Warriors will get another shot at the Nuggets. Andrew Wiggins and Andre Iguodala will hopefully have taken some time to get their legs back under them, and maybe — just maybe — Jordan Poole could return to action and lend a helping hand.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (27-7) at Denver Nuggets (17-16)
WHEN: Thursday, December 30th, 2021 // 6:30pm PDT
A tale of two halves
Thankfully, because of their strong early play this season, Golden State can afford to lay a stinker here or there. So too has the team earned it on a more micro scale. This season’s iteration of the Warriors has proven itself to have plenty of punch to come back to recover from partial-game collapses. If you just look at the final two frames of the previous game, Golden State was crushing the Nuggets.
Before the season started, Curry divided the season up into three parts: the section leading up to Klay Thompson’s return, a integration period, and then finally the playoffs. Golden State is now stalled out at the end of that first phase, and given the dynamic daily roster changes, it seems like the second phase is going to involve a lot of shuffling lineups.
Without pivotal cog Draymond Green, the expectation was that the Warriors might struggle. The defense held up just fine, but it was the offense that ended up missing Green’s presence the most.
The Nuggets posted up 17 times (to the Warriors’ nine), but it’s not like Denver killed Golden State by doing this. Overall, the Nuggets offense ran slightly less efficiently than the Warriors’ did (0.84 points per possession for Golden State, 0.82 for Denver).
The main problem was Nikola Jokic. He put up a gaudy stat line, his 3rd consecutive game with at least 20 points, 15 rebounds and five assists (and he also grabbed four steals). Much like the Warriors do with Curry, everything in Denver drives off of the threat of Jokic. With elite court vision and passing, and a feathery, ambidextrous touch around the basket, Jokic’s damage isn’t fully captured just by his 22 points on 19 shots. Watch as he serves as the fulcrum of their offense here. Reminiscent of Curry, but very different:
Speaking of Curry, a big part of the first half struggles were due to him hunting another record. Well… hunting isn’t the right word, since there’s an inevitability to the orbital velocity of Curry’s career trajectory right now that will shoot him well out of the solar system of these three-point records. But he looked weird on his way to breaking the league’s all time record for threes made less than a week ago, didn’t score until the closing minutes of the 2nd quarter.
One glance at his shooting chart will confirm that he was having an odd night. He’s not always going to shoot this poorly:
Looking at the adjustments to make, the most obvious ones will simply entail getting the team equilibrium back. Andre Iguodala and Andrew Wiggins both came back, but were also involved in some hiccups. Assuming Poole (and Moody) are available, it’s another leap back towards normalcy.
That normalcy will be hard to find without Green out there helping the offense flow, but this team can figure it out.
One of the biggest offseason improvements was the influx of players that are willing and able to make the right plays. But when Poole and Lee aren’t out there, it can put a lot of pressure on non-scorers to be a threat. The Warriors movement-heavy system quickly stalls when it’s just Curry looking for a shot.
But Golden State isn’t panicking. With a nice healthy stockpile of wins so far, these are the sorts of learning experiences that could very well come in handy once the postseason arrives. Watch this crunch time sequence, but instead of Kuminga getting the ball from Porter and getting blocked by Jokic, look how badly Curry wanted that pass back three:
Now look at the static image capture of it.
Porter and Curry are going to make this work next time.
This is the last Warriors game of 2021, here’s hoping for a good one with no injuries!