The Golden State Warriors are just one win away from advancing to the Western Conference semifinals. The Denver Nuggets made every effort to make it a series, but they just couldn’t match Golden State’s firepower in a 118-115 loss on Thursday night in Denver. The Warriors’ trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole were fantastic again, as they combined for 80 points in the winning effort.
Poole and Curry led the team with 27 points each, while Thompson added 26 points on 6-for-13 3-point shooting. Draymond Green put up six points, 10 assists and five rebounds, while coming up with a clutch steal late in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Nikola Jokic was simply breathtaking for the Nuggets, putting up 37 points, 18 rebounds and five assists on 14-for-22 shooting, but it just wasn’t enough. Aaron Gordon also had a strong game for Denver, scoring 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds and four assists.
Now, Golden State needs just one more win for a sweep and a second-round matchup against either the Memphis Grizzlies or Minnesota Timberwolves. Here are a few takeaways from Game 3, followed by a recap of our live updates.
1. Super Splash Brothers
As if dealing with Curry and Thompson wasn’t difficult enough, the Warriors have added a bona fide third Splash Brother in Poole, who has scored 30, 29 and 27 points, respectively, in the first three playoff games of his career. Poole set the tone early, hitting a 3-pointer and getting to the rim for an and-one in the opening minutes of the game. Not only has his shooting been phenomenal, but he adds a level of quickness and athleticism that the aging Warriors roster sorely needed. Watch here as he refuses to settle for the open 3, and instead gets to the rim and completes the acrobatic finish.
“I don’t remember a better start for a playoff debut for a guard. It’s incredible what Jordan’s doing,” Thompson said after the game. “We need him to go where we want to go, and we need him to keep doing what he’s doing.”
Curry did a great job getting to the rim on Thursday as well, going 6-for-8 from two-point range in 30 minutes. He beat Jokic one-on-one late in the game for a layup, after which Curry said “goodnight” to the Denver crowd.
Thompson did most of his damage from the outside with his six 3s, but selectively drove and posted up when he had an advantageous matchup. Altogether, the Super Splash Brothers combined for 80 points on 12-for-27 3-point shooting. The Warriors are going to be very hard to beat on nights like this.
2. Draymond’s the glue
With all the scoring exploits of Curry, Thompson and Poole, it might be easy to overlook the importance of Green, still arguably the league’s best defender. Jokic got the better of him on many plays on Thursday, but when it came down to crunch time, Green – who had five fouls at the time – picked Jokic’s pocket on a pivotal possession that essentially clinched the game for Golden State.
“Draymond made so many big plays, and he’s just so good defensively in so many ways,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game.
Green also had 10 assists, orchestrating the offense and finding open looks for his teammates throughout the night, as he’s done for his entire career. The Warriors’ newest death lineup featuring Curry, Thompson, Poole and Wiggins doesn’t work without Green’s otherworldly defensive ability and basketball IQ. He’s proving that time and time again in the playoffs.
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3. Joker the juggernaut
The Warriors had relative success on Jokic in the first two games, holding him to 47 percent shooting, which is well under his season average. In Game 3, however, the reigning MVP was as unstoppable as he could be – posting up, knocking down two of his three 3-point attempts, and attacking Green’s hard closeouts for layups and floaters.
“He got the better of me tonight,” Green said of Jokic after the game. “You’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He was incredible tonight.”
It’s hard to play better offensively than Jokic did in Game 3, but he simply didn’t get the help he needed on either end to give the Nuggets their first victory of the series. It’s unlikely that Denver will come back from a 3-0 hole against Golden State (no NBA team ever has), but with a healthy Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. potentially returning, they’re going to be a legitimate Western Conference contender next season.