It’s hard to see the Golden State Warriors not making the postseason despite their disappointing form of late, but Kenneth Faried hitting a game winner and cancelling out what would have been one by Stephen Curry led the Denver Nuggets to a 100-99 win and plenty of worries for a team that had bigger expectations than struggling to clinch a playoff spot.
With 4.7 seconds left in the game, Stephen Curry made the most of Timofey Mozgov being unable to finish on the put back and crossed his way into the paint, scoring above to Nuggets players with a great finger roll, bringing the ORACLE arena to its feet. Kenneth Faried got the ball on a post up with Draymond Green guarding him on the inbound pass. He backed him up and made a tough shot over him. The Warriors had time left for a final shot, but Curry got the ball too far away from the basket, and his desperate three fell short of the mark.
Mozgov had a huge night for the Nuggets, finishing with 23 points and 29 rebounds, including 9 offensive rebounds. Having David Lee and Jermaine O’Neal didn’t matter, as the Russian center seemed impossible to box out or limit in the paint, and some better finishing from him would have made it impossible for the Warriors to actually be that close in the final moments of the game. It’s the second consecutive game of the Nuggets beating a playoff team, so the Warriors shouldn’t be that surprised.
The defense wasn’t perfect, and the theory says that their defense will decide how far they go in the postseason, but there are offensive issues to be concerned about. Stephen Curry is much more than just a shooter, but there comes a point when he realizes that doing things on his own, unless Klay Thompson managed to get open, is his best option. Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and Green combined to score only 14 points on 6-of-15 from the field.
Iguodala was the most disappointing figure, as always. He did have a double crossover that put Quincy Miller on his back, but these things are good when you finish a play with them. When you lose, there’s less to be proud about, despite the incredible handles shown by Iguodala, who is averaging only 9.2 points per game this season while shooting a very poor 65.2% from the free throw line.
The Warriors aren’t in such a bad place. Just one more win is going to be enough. With the Lakers coming up next, it feels as if the job is half done. But they’ve lost to teams like the Knicks and Cavs over the last month, and playing three games out of the last four on the road (Lakers, Blazers, Nuggets) isn’t that much of a heartwarming prospect. They’ll probably win one at least of the remaining four, but the confidence the Warriors felt about being a potential title contender earlier in the season seems to have evaporated.