Warriors hope change of venue alters fortunes vs. Nuggets

Jan 4, 2024, 8:02 AM | Updated: 8:53 am

Jamal Murray #27 and Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets work on the pick and roll against the G...

DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 25: Jamal Murray #27 and Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets work on the pick and roll against the Golden State Warriors at Ball Arena on December 25, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

After two narrow losses in Colorado earlier in the season, the Golden State Warriors hope a change of venue makes a difference when they host the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night in San Francisco.

The NBA’s last two champions went to the wire the first two times they met this season, with the home team pulling out 108-105 and 120-114 victories largely on the strength of 32-27 and 28-25 fourth quarters, respectively.

The latter meeting took place on Christmas Day. According to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, the result was a bit of a gift to the Nuggets, who saw Nikola Jokic waltz to the free-throw line 18 times.

“If I were a fan, I wouldn’t have wanted to watch the second half of that game. It was disgusting,” Kerr said after the game. “It was just baiting refs into calls, but the refs have to make those calls because that’s how they’re taught.”

Nuggets coach Michael Malone, recognizing that Jokic has gotten to the line more than 60 fewer times than Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic this season, had a simple response to Kerr’s complaint.

“I don’t agree with anything that was said,” Malone said.

And so the stage is set for Nuggets-Warriors III, with each team coming off a win.

The Warriors snapped a three-game losing streak on Tuesday, beating the visiting Orlando Magic 121-115 behind 36 points from Stephen Curry.

Golden State has received turn-back-the-clock efforts from Chris Paul since he was inserted into the starting lineup two games ago.

The veteran guard went for a season-high 24 points, making six of his nine 3-point attempts, in a 132-122 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday before burying all three of his long-range attempts on a 12-point night against the Magic.

Coming off the bench at the time, Paul totaled just 22 points in the earlier losses to Denver, but he did make four of his nine 3-point shots.

The Warriors once again will have to deal with Jokic, who enters the game having made his last 30 free-throw attempts.

Jokic had 35 points and 13 rebounds, then 26 points and 14 rebounds in the two wins over the Warriors. However, he was held to five and eight assists as Golden State continued a season-long run of games without allowing a triple-double.

That streak is ongoing for the Warriors, who haven’t yielded a triple-double since Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey accomplished the feat on March 7.

Jokic logged his 30th double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 boards on Monday as the Nuggets rebounded from a home loss Friday to the Thunder with a 111-93 home romp over the Charlotte Hornets.

Jamal Murray added 25 points and seven assists for Denver on Monday, and Michael Porter Jr. contributed 22 points and eight rebounds.

“Guys were locked in and defense was leading to offense,” Malone said. “When you have Jamal and Michael (Porter Jr.) and Nikola playing at that level, then that allows us to go on runs like that. We took care of it in the second half, and that’s Denver Nuggets basketball.”

The game featured the return to action of Aaron Gordon, who had missed Denver’s previous two contests after sustaining dog bites to his right (shooting) hand and face after the Christmas win over Golden State.

Gordon played 25 minutes against the Hornets, scoring 10 points.

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