Warriors up for another run

Champs raring to go against Cavs on Xmas after being pounded by Nuggets at home

Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris going up for a shot as Golden State Warriors forward David West defends. Harris' 19 points made him the top scorer in the game at Oakland, which the visitors won 96-81.
Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris going up for a shot as Golden State Warriors forward David West defends. Harris' 19 points made him the top scorer in the game at Oakland, which the visitors won 96-81.PHOTO: REUTERS

OAKLAND (California) • Christmas is all about new beginnings and the Golden State Warriors will start afresh against the Cleveland Cavaliers today after their 11-game winning streak was snapped by Denver on Saturday.

The Nuggets held the National Basketball Association (NBA) champions to a season low in points in their 96-81 victory at Oracle Arena.

"We flush this down the toilet and we move on," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, whose team next host LeBron James and Co. "We just didn't have it. They were the better team. They deserved it."

Coming off a tremendous defensive effort in a 102-85 win at Portland on Friday, the Nuggets were even better less than 24 hours later, harassing Warriors stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson into a combined 12-of-38 shooting, including one of 15 on three-pointers.

At one stage, the Warriors collectively missed 20 straight threes.

They finished three of 27 from behind the arc. It certainly was not what anyone expected from a team who had made 39.6 per cent of their three-pointers and were up against a Nuggets side who have been scorched from deep to the tune of 37.8 per cent.

Overall, the Warriors made 32 of their 83 shots from the floor - their worst shooting performance of the season.

Denver led by as many as six points in the first quarter, and by 14 in the second and third quarters, before never allowing the Warriors closer than 11 in the last 12 minutes.

"What a great effort. What a great performance. What a great win for us," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "I can't remember seeing many teams hold that team to 3-of-27 from the three-point line."

Gary Harris led five players in double figures with 19 points for the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic had 18 points, Wilson Chandler and Trey Lyles 15 apiece and Jamal Murray 14 for balanced Denver (18-15).

Durant led the Warriors (26-7) with 18 points. Thompson finished with 15, including a three-pointer with 7min 55sec to go that extended his streak of making at least one to 87 games, the fourth-longest run in NBA history. His 1-of-10 night on threes was his worst of the season and second worst of his career, eclipsed only by a 1-of-11 outing last March at Chicago.

The Warriors will now turn their attentions to the Cavaliers (24-9).

"That's a game you don't have to say anything," Kerr said. "It's Christmas Day and national TV, our Finals opponent for three straight years."

Golden State triumphed in 2015 and this year while the Cavs won in a seven-game thriller last year.

The Warriors are set to remain without injured guard Stephen Curry while fellow All-Star Draymond Green is a doubt after suffering an elbow injury against Denver.

Cleveland's All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas is a confirmed absentee as he continues to recover from a hip injury - one reason team-mate J.R. Smith is playing down the blockbuster clash.

"We definitely over the years grew a strong dislike for (Golden State)," he told cleveland.com.

"The match-ups and whoever you guard and schemes, that's all going to be totally different by the time we get to the Finals, so it don't really hold no weight."

Cavs big man Kevin Love admitted that "it's hard not to have a Christmas Day game, especially after you lose against a team in the Finals, not marked on your calendar". But James insisted that it is just one of their 82 regular-season games.

"I think Christmas Day is a big-time day for our league," he told cleveland.com. "But at the end of the day, it's one game and you want to see how you can play versus the top team in the league and that's Golden State."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2017, with the headline 'Warriors up for another run'. Subscribe