Shorthanded Nuggets crush Warriors with record-tying 24 3-pointers

Jameer Nelson was one of several Nuggets to excel from deep on Monday. (AP)

The Golden State Warriors have grown used to setting records with incredible offensive displays. Nevertheless, what the Denver Nuggets did to them at the Pepsi Center on Monday night must have come as something of a shock.

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To be fair, no one expected the Nuggets to match the NBA record for 3-pointers in a single game and dominate the NBA-best Warriors for a convincing 132-110 win. The Nuggets’ 24 triples tied a record set by the Houston Rockets on Dec. 16, a sign of the league’s continuing trend towards taking as many 3-pointers as offenses can handle. Crucially, though, the Nuggets attempted only 40 3s to the Rockets’ NBA-record 60. That means Denver made their 3s at a 60 percent clip — a full 20 percent better than Houston’s mark.

Their perimeter excellence started early and did not abate until the result was all but decided. Denver shot 7-of-11 from deep in the first quarter on their way to 42 points and got even better in the second, shooting 9-of-12 from beyond the arc for a -high 79 points in a half. Those 16 3-pointers tied the NBA record for triples in a half, which was set in November by a red-hot Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers. That big-time performance was felt in the box score, too — the Nuggets led 42-30 after the first and 79-54 at the half.

The Nuggets’ big night was certainly a team effort. Four starters made at least four 3-pointers, with rookie Juancho Hernangomez (6-of-9 for a career-high 27 points) and veteran Jameer Nelson (5-of-7 for 23 points) standing out as the most prolific of the bunch. Three reserves combined for five 3s, too, although the starting five clearly carried most of the weight.

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Yet Denver’s best performer didn’t make any 3-pointers at all. Budding star Nikola Jokic picked up the second triple-double of his career with 17 points, 21 rebounds (a career high), and 12 assists (another career best) in the sort of performance that has elevated him to a national story.

It remains to be seen if head coach Michael Malone will give him the game ball like he did on the occasion of Jokic’s first triple-double less than two weeks ago. That decision carried repercussions:

Naked or not, Jokic and his fellow starters can take pride in the way they bucked expectations on Monday. In fact, this game was supposed to be difficult for a Nuggets team with just nine available players. Wilson Chandler, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kenneth Faried, and Danilo Gallinari all missed the Warriors tilt with injury or illness, and Sunday’s trade with the Portland Trail Blazers for Mason Plumlee meant that one more player on the roster was unable to suit up.

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The Warriors played without Klay Thompson, but it seemed clear that their problems had more to do with playing a third road game in four nights and suffering an emotional letdown following Kevin Durant’s dramatic return to Oklahoma City on Saturday. The usual indicators weren’t good — Golden State shot just 8-of-32 from beyond the arc and looked very weak defensively. It was an especially bad game for Stephen Curry, who shot just 1-of-11 on threes and 4-of-18 in 27 minutes. He laughed it off with a reference to the scene in OKC:

Head coach Steve Kerr, for his part, was not especially concerned:

That lack of serious worry showed in his late-game rotations. Youngsters Patrick McCaw, Ian Clark, Briante Weber, Kevon Looney, James Michael McAdoo, and Damian Jones were the only Warriors to see action in the fourth quarter, a notable development considering Kerr usually doesn’t play that group even when the Warriors are up 20-plus points.

For a time, it appeared to work — they momentarily cut the margin to just nine points as McCaw became the first Warriors rookie to score 19 points since Harrison Barnes in February 2013. However, the Nuggets snapped back to life and asserted their dominance again on their way to the blowout victory.

The unique circumstances of this game are unlikely to serve as a preview of things to come, but this result should boost interest in a potential first-round playoff series between these teams. The Nuggets hold a narrow lead for the West’s final postseason berth and would almost certainly face the Warriors if they manage to hold onto that spot. Golden State would certainly be the favorite to win that series in four or five games, but the prospect of a few shootouts should get neutrals excited. A record-setting performance by the team not known for its historic shooting will do that.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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