Despite Steph Curry scoring a game-high 34 points, the Golden State Warriors suffered their first loss of the season, to the Denver Nuggets on Friday, going down 125-123 to the team they eliminated from the first round of the Western Conference playoffs in April.
Curry added five rebounds and four assists to his 34 points on 10-of-22 shooting but could not drag his team to victory in San Francisco.
The defending champions were undone by an impressive performance from last season’s MVP Nikola Jokic who finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 77th career triple-double.
With this latest one, Jokic now has the second-most triple-doubles in NBA history, behind only Wilt Chamberlain on 78.
The first quarter remained finely poised but Denver pulled away in the second and had built a 20-point lead by the beginning of the third.
“I thought they just came out with way more force than we did and set the tone,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, per NBA.
“And then at that point, it’s tough, playing upstream against a great team and I loved our effort in the second half. I thought our guys competed and gave ourselves a chance and it was just, too much to overcome after falling behind by 20.”
The Warriors fought back in the fourth and a Jordan Poole layup with 14.7 seconds remaining left Golden State just a point behind.
But immediately afterwards, as the Warriors were still getting back in transition, Jokic secured the rebound and heaved the ball 85 feet down court to find Bruce Brown for a two-foot dunk.
Two free throws from Jokic with 6.6 seconds left took Denver’s lead beyond three points and sealed the victory.
“Honestly, we have eight years together now and [nothing surprises me],” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, according to ESPN.
“So many big games, so many moments when [Jokic has] made the big play, the right play and a game-changing type of play. … His IQ is off the charts. He’s out there playing chess, and a lot of other guys are playing checkers.”
Elsewhere in the Western Conference, Ja Morant dazzled, scoring 49 points to carry the Memphis Grizzlies to a 129-122 win over the Houston Rockets.
In the Eastern Conference, the Brooklyn Nets held on for a 109-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors, after almost letting a 12-point lead slip in the fourth, while the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Orlando Magic 108-98.