OAKLAND (California) • The Golden State Warriors recorded their first National Basketball Association win of 2016 on Saturday, but it was hard to find a smile anywhere in the Oracle Arena afterward.
In a game that saw Golden State star Stephen Curry sit out the second half with a recurring leg injury and Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried get carted off the floor on a stretcher at the end, the Warriors blew a 26-point lead before recovering for a 111-108 overtime victory.
Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson split the defence for a driving hoop with 15.6 seconds remaining in the extra session, breaking a tie and propelling Golden State to their 16th straight home win this year and 34th in a row bridging the last two seasons.
"It was ugly," assured Thompson, who had missed three straight shots, including two in overtime, before his game winner. "Not every win is going to be pretty."
We're not a team that makes excuses. After losing the lead, we could have put our heads down. But we fought through it. That was a championship effort.
DRAYMOND GREEN, on the short-handed Warriors still managing to come from behind to beat the Nuggets in OT
Surely, the most disturbing scene was Faried, his neck in a brace, getting placed on a stretcher as the teams were leaving the floor.
He was taken to an Oakland hospital as a "precaution", is how the Nuggets labelled it, after taking a blow to the back of the neck in a collision with team-mate Will Barton on Thompson's game winner.
"Obviously any time you're dealing with a neck or back, it's scary," Nuggets point guard Jameer Nelson said. "Nobody did anything intentional. Hopefully he's good."
Faried had been a driving force in the Denver comeback. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive end, as the Nuggets amassed 24 offensive boards and outscored the Warriors 17-3 on second-chance points.
Curry, meanwhile, played 141/2 minutes in the first half, scoring five points as Golden State built a 63-47 lead.
But he did not return to the court for the second half after his lower left leg, which had kept him out of the Warriors' previous two games, tightened up a bit.
"He'll be all right," said Thompson, who finished with 26 points. "It's only January. You'd rather be safe than sorry."
Thompson's big hoop came after Faried had banked in a tightly contested eight-footer with 33.3 seconds left, forging a 108-108 tie.
Barton, Denver's second-leading scorer with 21 points, had two subsequent chances to level the game.
First, he misfired on a running five-footer and Thompson, fouled after Warriors back-up centre Marreese Speights snatched the rebound, increased Golden State's lead to 111-108 by making one of two free throws with 6.9 seconds left.
Barton then got Denver's final shot, but could not connect on a desperate three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Power forward Draymond Green recorded a 29-point, 17-rebound, 14-assist triple-double for the Warriors, whose 34-game home winning streak matches the fifth best of all time.
The Warriors, who suited up only nine players for the game, finished with just seven after Curry could not continue and centre Andrew Bogut fouled out.
"That's who we are," Green said of the short-handed effort. "We're not a team that makes excuses. After losing the lead, we could have put our heads down. But we fought through it.
"That was a championship effort."