Warriors’ scorching 3-point shooting sparks convincing Game 1 win over Nuggets

SAN FRANCISCO – Steph Curry preened for his teammate, knowing it wasn’t his show to celebrate.

Curry, who came off the bench in Saturday’s decisive 123-107 Game 1 win over the Nuggets, wanted teammate Jordan Poole to feel the limelight. At least for a night, Poole more than filled Curry’s shoes with five 3-pointers en route to 30 points.

“We can’t beat ourselves and the Warriors in the same game, and we did that tonight,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, referencing both Golden State’s points off turnovers (21) and second-chance points (20).

Klay Thompson buried five 3-pointers for good measure.

Even with a hobbled Curry, the Warriors looked every bit as dangerous as advertised.

“We didn’t defend,” said Will Barton.

Their 16-11 advantage from the 3-point line was a glaring mark, as was Nikola Jokic’s efficiency. It took Jokic 25 shots to get to 25 points, a ratio the Warriors would be more than happy to maintain. With only six assists, the Warriors swarmed and eliminated Jokic’s best weapon: his vision.

“Jok is an MVP, he’ll figure it out,” said Barton, who credited Draymond Green for limiting Jokic’s effectiveness.

Only Barton (24 points) gave the Nuggets any real offensive boost aside from Jokic. Aaron Gordon managed just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting, and Denver’s second unit couldn’t muster any rhythm, either.

As the game got out of hand, Denver’s frustration mounted. DeMarcus Cousins picked up consecutive technical fouls and was ejected less than two minutes into the fourth.

Given Curry’s return from a foot injury — and his relatively quiet 16-point night — Saturday may have been Denver’s best chance at stealing a game on the road. They’ll try again Monday for Game 2.

It took about nine minutes into the second half before Denver’s wheels fell off. Up until that point, they’d scrapped and battled to keep the margin under 10. But Poole buried two massive 3-pointers, Curry nailed one and even Green drained a triple from the top of the arc. After bypassing an open look earlier, Green’s 3-pointer sparked a raucous eruption from Warriors fans that evoked memories from Oracle Arena in Oakland.

As the 3-point parade continued, the Nuggets’ offense struggled to generate anything sustainable. By the end of Golden State’s 32-point quarter, the Warriors carried a commanding 90-70 lead into the fourth.

Malone planned all week for Curry to play, whether he was fully healthy or not.

“Regardless of him coming off of an injury where he missed the last 12 games of the season you can never allow a great offensive player to relax on defense,” he said. “… So it’s not — we’re not going to go out of our way to try and see how Steph is moving because that means we’re getting away from what we do. But with that being said, yes we have to find a way to make Steph Curry play on both ends of the floor because if he’s just allowed to play offense, he’s a three-time world champion, two-time MVP, we’ve all seen what he’s capable of.”

In an effort to simulate the Warriors’ potent attack this past week, they deployed Markus Howard as Curry, Jamal Murray as Thompson, Davon Reed as Andrew Wiggins, Vlatko Cancar as Kevon Looney and assistant coach Stephen Graham as Draymond Green.

“Not a bad scout team,” Malone quipped, though nothing was going to adequately replicate the Warriors’ depth.

The Nuggets’ offense stammered and sputtered into halftime, where they faced a 58-47 deficit at the break. Outside of Jokic’s 14 points on 15 shots, only Barton (eight points) was a reliable offensive focal point.

Gordon struggled mightily in the first half, and the Nuggets’ offense deteriorated far too often into hoping Jokic would bail them out. When the Warriors sent double-teams in Jokic’s direction, Denver didn’t make Golden State pay. Jeff Green was the only Nuggets starter to hit a 3-pointer in the first half.

Curry was largely held in check, but it didn’t matter. Poole and Thompson burned Denver’s perimeter defense for six combined 3-pointers over the first two quarters, lighting a fuse typically sparked by Curry.

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