History was made inside the Pepsi Center on Sunday night. Not necessarily because the Denver Nuggets played poorly, but rather that the Golden State Warriors are placing themselves inside the conversation of the NBA’s best-ever teams more and more as each day passes.
Klay Thompson scored a team-high 21 points to lead a balanced scoring attack as the Warriors improved to 15-0 on the season with a 118-105 victory over the Nuggets before 17,689 fans and a national television audience.
The victory allowed the Warriors to tie the NBA’s all-time undefeated mark to open a season that was set by both the 1948-49 Washington Capitols and the 1993-94 Houston Rockets. It was the second of the season for the Warriors over Denver following a 119-104 win in Oakland in early November. Golden State will have the chance to establish a new record when they host the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.
“Coming off a championship, we had a lot of criticism about us last year so to start this way, 15-0, is pretty big,” said Harrison Barnes, who finished with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting. “Coach brought it up last game. He said, ‘Look, we have a shot at this if we take care of business over the next two games. We can achieve it. If you guys want to mess around, we won’t.’ It feels good to tie the milestone tonight.”
Golden State shot 52.8 percent from the field, including 15-of-29 shots from behind the arc. Two of the biggest came late in the second quarter from Thompson as the Warriors responded when Denver took a 51-50 lead. A quick 8-0 run was part of a 14-7 burst that gave Golden State a 64-58 lead at intermission.
Thompson finished the period with 14 points, including connecting on all three of his 3-point attempts.
“Every single night, we give up 12 to 15 3-point shots. It’s tough to make that difference up because we’re not a 3-point shooting team,” Denver head coach Michael Malone said. “Closing out the second half, they go on a 14-7 run and Klay hits back-to-back 3s. When you play against a great team, you can’t do that because it’s tough to make that difference up.”
Golden State would lead by as many as 21 points late as the Warriors’ defense kept Denver off-balance. Golden State’s bench outscored their Denver counterparts 40-25 and helped force the Nuggets into 20 turnovers on the night, including six in the opening period.
“When you face a team who is one of the top offensive teams in the NBA, they don’t need 20 extra possessions,” Malone said. “They’re good enough to beat you with no turnovers so our inability to value the basketball and give them 20 points on 20 turnovers is bad.”
Denver pulled within six in the third quarter before reigning MVP Stephen Curry took over, burying a pair of 3-pointers, including one with Denver’s Danilo Gallinari draped all over him. Golden State ended up outscoring the Nuggets 27-21 in the period to take a 12-point edge into the fourth quarter.
Darrell Arthur paced Denver (6-8) with a season-high 21 points while Gallinari and Will Barton each added 19. In all, six Denver players scored in double figures but could not stop the team from losing its second consecutive home game.