Warriors' Game 4 loss vs. Nuggets filled with silver linings – NBC Sports

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The Warriors had a chance Sunday to plunge a dagger into the heart of the Denver Nuggets and give themselves an extended break before the start of the Western Conference semifinals.
That didn’t happen.
A disjointed first half highlighted by fouls and turnovers allowed the Nuggets to build a 17-point lead, and Golden State’s second-half charge led by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson came up just short.
Final: Denver 126, Golden State 121.
There will be a Game 5. The Warriors’ veteran bodies won’t get a week to rest and recharge. Sloppy play, poor shooting and a lack of execution allowed the Nuggets to have a sliver of life. Not much. But enough to send the series back to Chase Center for Game 5 on Wednesday.
The Warriors wanted the sweep badly. You could tell by their frantic start. Steve Kerr sensed it as ESPN cameras caught the Warriors coach telling his team early on to stop trying to go for the kill shot and just execute.
Golden State didn’t heed Kerr’s words until it was too late. Jordan Poole had his first rough playoff game. The bench, outside of Curry and a Jonathan Kuminga burst in the second quarter, was a zero. Curry missed four free throws.
Bottom line: The Warriors didn’t play well enough to win Game 4, and yet, they almost did anyway.
“Second half was better,” Curry said after the loss. “We were much more cohesive as a group in terms of creating good shots and taking care of the ball. But we gave them way too much life in the first half. Seventeen-point lead, 40-23, and their crowd is into it. The fact that we had a lead with a minute and a half [left] speaks to who we are, but it was kind of a miracle at that point.”
That the Nuggets scored 30 points off turnovers, shot 36 free throws, made 15 3-pointers, and got good games from Monte Morris (24 points) and Aaron Gordon (21) along with 37 from Nikola Jokic and still had to fight to hang on against the Warriors’ C-game speaks to the gap between these two teams.
Golden State knows it’s the better team. The Nuggets will fight, but reality has set in for them as well. A week off would have been welcomed by Curry, Green, Poole and Andre Iguodala. But for a Warriors team still searching for a concrete identity, one more game against an inferior opponent isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it might be just what they need as their gaze starts to drift to the Memphis Grizzlies or Minnesota Timberwolves.
“We just got to play better,” Green said Sunday. “This isn’t the worst thing for us. We get more reps together, more playoff-like reps together. It isn’t all bad. We got to go home and take care of our business and close out the game and not come back to Denver.”
After a regular season marred by injuries, Kerr and the Warriors are still experimenting, throwing lineups out that have no chemistry or experience together. Another 48 minutes of playoff basketball could be a benefit. Curry likely will return to the starting lineup Wednesday, giving the Warriors their first look at what a playoff rotation with No. 30 out there for the opening tip looks like.
The Warriors aren’t worried. Curry, Thompson, Green, Iguodala, and Kerr have been through countless postseason battles. They know it’s hard to close out teams on the road, especially when you aren’t locked in and executing at a top level.
They also know they’ve opened the door for the series to be extended even further, putting special importance on extinguishing the Nuggets in Game 5.
“We got to go in with the attitude of, alright, it’s a must-win,” Thompson said of Game 5. “We’d like to have some rest before the next series. We’d like to not travel back to Denver. We have to come with the mindset that we have something to prove, that it’s a must-win. Because a win by them and anything is possible. We’re coming out guns blazing.”
The Warriors looked like a juggernaut in pummeling the Nuggets in Games 1 and 2. They did enough to grind out a road win in Game 3. As long as Game 4 isn’t a harbinger of things to come, there’s reason to view it as a learning experience for a team that is still new to playoff basketball as a unit.
“We needed that,” Kerr said. “We took ourselves out of the game because we were too excited. And part of winning playoff basketball games on the road is executing, being poised, understanding what’s happening, and sticking to the game plan. Between the turnovers and the fouls, the back cuts … like I said, we didn’t deserve to win.
“But, now, you take that and put it in your back pocket. And you’ve got it in the memory bank for the next time we’re in that situation. … This is the situation you want in any playoff series when you’re hosting: sweep the first two, get one out of two on the road, and go home with a chance to clinch. So we’re right where we need to be.”
Sunday’s loss can be a learning experience for a Warriors team that has gone from playoff unknown to legitimate title threat in four games. But it’s up to the Warriors to learn from their sloppy, over-eager play in Game 4 and send the Nuggets off to Cancun on Wednesday with flawless execution.
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