Warriors back in the black

Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala dunking the ball against the Denver Nuggets at the Oracle Arena on Friday night. The Warriors (45-20) won 122-105 to increase their lead over the Nuggets (43-22) in the play-off race.
Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala dunking the ball against the Denver Nuggets at the Oracle Arena on Friday night. The Warriors (45-20) won 122-105 to increase their lead over the Nuggets (43-22) in the play-off race.PHOTO: REUTERS

After losing thrice in four matches, defending champs regain swagger by beating Denver

OAKLAND (California) • Following three defeats in four games, the Golden State Warriors could not have asked for a better time to recover some of their championship-winning swagger.

On Friday night, the two-time National Basketball Association defending champions beat the Denver Nuggets 122-105 in a clash of the Western Conference's top two.

Crucially, the home win allowed the Warriors (45-20) to increase their lead over the Nuggets (43-22) in the play-off race.

Klay Thompson, back from a two-game absence with a sore knee, poured in 27 of his game-high 39 points in the first half.

The guard also converted nine of his 11 three-point attempts as Golden State bounced back from the worst defeat under coach Steve Kerr, a 33-point rout by the Boston Celtics last Tuesday.

"I let the game come to me," Thompson said. "I took two games off and it felt like eternity.

"It is a long regular season and the guys are eager to get to the play-offs. We've all got our eyes on that three-peat. Nothing can deter us from that."

Much as they did in the 142-111 shellacking of the Nuggets in Denver in January, the Warriors dominated the first quarter en route to a lead they relinquished only briefly.

They burst out of the gate with a 15-3 run, with Thompson making his first two treys, and led by as many as 19 in the quarter en route to a 67-50 half-time advantage.

The Nuggets got no closer than eight in the second half.

Kevin Durant backed Thompson with 26 points, Stephen Curry contributed 17 points and DeMarcus Cousins 13 to complement six rebounds, six assists and six blocked shots for the Warriors, who shot 53.6 per cent while connecting on 18 of 35 from three-point range.

Draymond Green was Golden State's leading rebounder with 10.

"Our guys have responded for the last five years to bad losses, to lulls, so it didn't surprise me at all that we came out with energy and passion and got off to that great start," Kerr said on ESPN.

"We are getting back on track and playing like ourselves."

Malik Beasley and Monte Morris had 17 points apiece off the bench to lead Denver, who completed a 1-2 trip that began with a loss at San Antonio.

Nikola Jokic (16) and Jamal Murray (11) were the only two starters to score in double figures. Back-up Torrey Craig also had 11 points and nine rebounds for Denver, who made just 37.9 per cent of their shots and only 12 of 33 threes.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said: "If it wasn't for our bench we would have gotten completely blown out."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 10, 2019, with the headline 'Warriors back in the black'. Print Edition | Subscribe