Warriors outlast Nikola Jokić and Nuggets, take series lead 3-0

Warriors outlast Nikola Jokić and Nuggets, take series lead 3-0

Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole scored 27 points each, Klay Thompson made six 3-pointers on his way to 26 points, and the Golden State Warriors muscular in front of Denver nuggets 118-113 Thursday night to take a 3-0 lead in the playoff series.

Draymond Green added a key steal from Nikola Jokić – 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 brink of elimination.

Golden State can wrap up the series Sunday in Denver. Teams facing a 3-0 deficit in an NBA playoff series are 0-143.

The Nuggets were in control for much of the second half, but after Jokić’s finger layup put Denver ahead 111-109 with 3:20 remaining, the Warriors tightened their defense.

The Nuggets had six straight possessions without scoring and Golden State had the game in hand when Will Barton’s tip with 23 seconds left pulled Denver up 117-113.

Aaron Gordon added 18 points for the Nuggets, who took an 89-87 fourth quarter lead but lost for the seventh straight time in the playoffs.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone complained before the game that his team hadn’t been aggressive, physical or vocal in the series, so he inserted Facundo Campazzo into his rotation after losing the first two games by an average of 18 points.

“When you’re a little understaffed like us, we have to be ultra physical, ultra aggressive and fight them,” Malone said.

Campazzo wasn’t the answer, but the Nuggets came out of halftime with renewed energy and used a 30-18 third quarter to take a two-point fourth quarter lead.

The Nuggets missed their final four shots of the first half, and Curry made 3-pointers and three-pointers to push Golden State’s lead to 69-59 at the break.

Without max players Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (fullback), the Nuggets knew they needed to slow down because they couldn’t keep up with the healthy Warriors.

“We’re in a Pinto, and they’re in a Maserati,” Malone joked.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr laughed at the analogy, noting that he never owned either model.

“I’m somewhere in between,” he said.

There’s no denying his team is fired up, though, after missing the playoffs the past two seasons.

“I think in some ways we’re invigorated after the last two years,” Kerr said. “We had a long run that started before I got here. Seven straight years in the playoffs and five trips to the finals and there was a lot of fatigue at that point, emotional and physical fatigue. It was very easy to say and feel that yes, the past two years we haven’t made the playoffs.

“The feeling I get from…the guys who have been here a long time is that they’re very happy to be back. So they’re playing with a lot of energy, a lot of excitement.”

Reporting by Associated Press.

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