Monte Morris’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer gives Nuggets improbable win over Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO – Rather than fold, the Nuggets fought.

And Monte Morris’ clutch 3-pointer at the buzzer left the Chase Center crowd stunned. Morris’ game-winning 3-pointer, off a heady pass from Nikola Jokic, gave the Nuggets a gripping 117-116 win over the Warriors.

“He’s so selfless, man,” Morris said. “It just shows you how much confidence he has in not just me, but everyone one of us.”

Once down 16 points in the third quarter, the Nuggets clamped down defensively and followed their MVP. Jokic, his jersey untucked by the end, seized Wednesday’s game by the throat and willed his team to their fifth win in six games. Jokic finished with 35 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists.

His last one ended the enthralling comeback, as Morris’ teammates rushed the court.

“I think everybody in the building knew the ball was going into Nikola,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That’s what makes Nikola a great player. We’re going to him with six seconds, whatever it is on the clock, to score. But you also know that he’s going to attract a crowd. And that’s what makes him, to me, the greatest player in the league.”

His unselfishness yielded one of the Nuggets’ most sensational moments of the season and helped to overcome 18 turnovers.

Steph Curry nailed a mid-range jumper, adding a free throw late to put the Warriors up 116-114. Morris, coincidentally, had committed the shooting foul. But Morris’ heroics, in his first game back from concussion protocol, made up for the mistake. He finished with 13 points and six assists.

Bryn Forbes, who played 30 minutes off the bench, added 22 on four 3-pointers.

Jokic tried hard to carry his beleaguered bunch in the third quarter. He banged on the glass, connected on two 3-pointers and battled to keep the Nuggets within striking distance. Yet turnovers and empty possessions kept undermining the process.

At the same time, Curry and Klay Thompson ignited the Chase Center. If it wasn’t Curry swerving and dancing with the ball, then it was Thompson raining in a deep 3-pointer to stretch the lead. The Warriors held an 86-78 lead into the fourth, and it was up to Denver’s bench to salvage the game.

Malone heaped praise on Curry prior to the game, calling him one of the most difficult players to scheme against.

“For years now, he’s a player where if you make a personnel mistake or a game-plan mistake, he doesn’t need any room to get that shot off,” Malone said. “We all know how deadly of a shooter he is. … He’s a threat anywhere he has the ball on the court, and he’s even more of a threat when he doesn’t have the ball. Being the son of a coach, you learn early on the most dangerous guy on the court is the guy who just passed the ball. Steph Curry, he really embodies that.

“He is tremendous at giving the ball up and just staying in constant motion,” he continued. “The defender relaxes for a second, he gets all the separation that he needs, and most times, it leads to a wide-open basket.”

Curry and the Warriors blitzed the Nuggets in the first half, exposing a disconnected defense to take a 63-54 lead into the break. Golden State got into the driving lanes and picked apart their opponents for 30 points inside.

Making their first half even more troubling, the Nuggets turned it over 12 times for 18 first-half points. Like lighter fluid to a fire, it was the last thing an already explosive offense needed. Jokic and Will Barton were responsible for seven of the miscues alone.

But were it not for Jokic, the game would’ve already been decided by halftime. He registered 16 points and 15 rebounds in his 17 minutes of work. But his one assist was indicative of a stagnant offense around him. After Jokic, the rest of the starters combined for just 12 points over the first two quarters.

Only Forbes found any semblance of rhythm with Denver’s bench. He drained 13 points with three 3-pointers in the first half.

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