The Golden State Warriors are headed to the conference semifinals of the NBA Playoffs after a two-year hiatus.
Taking on a game Denver Nuggets team that has been short-handed all season, Golden State took out the Nuggets by the score of 102-98 Wednesday evening in San Francisco. This concludes an otherwise hard-fought series that saw Golden State take four of five from Denver.
After struggling early in his first start since returning from injury, Stephen Curry took over in the fourth quarter.
He scored nine of his 30 points in the final three minutes of the game, helping the Warriors overcome what was an eight-point deficit after three quarters. Klay Thompson and Gary Payton II added 15 points for a Warriors team that struggled on offense throughout Game 5.
As he did all series, reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic was absolutely dominant. The center scored 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting while adding 19 rebounds and eight assists. Unfortunately, it was not enough for him to help the Denver Nuggets force a Game 6. Below, we look at four takeaways from the Golden State Warriors’ 102-98 Game 5 win over the Denver Nuggets.
Stephen Curry is fully back for the Golden State Warriors
This two-time NBA MVP missed the final 12 games of the regular season due to a foot injury. While Curry returned for the first-round series, he was on a minutes restriction for the first three games. This didn’t stop Curry from averaging 27.5 points on 51% shooting in those first three games.
Getting his first start of the series Wednesday evening, Curry hit on 5-of-11 from distance. However, it was his ability to drive through double teams and finish in the lane that changed the dynamics of the game big time in the fourth quarter.
In reality, being able to sit out the final month or so of the regular season has proven to be a boon for Curry and his Warriors. He looks completely refreshed after a long regular season. That could have an impact in the conference semifinals against either the Memphis Grizzlies or Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Denver Nuggets are going to be a force moving forward
Jokic led Denver to 48 regular-season wins despite Jamal Murray missing the entire season and stud forward Michael Porter Jr. suiting up for just nine games. It goes to show us that Jokic should win his second consecutive NBA MVP award.
- Nikola Jokic stats (first round): 31.0 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 5.8 APG, 58% shooting
Wednesday’s loss also saw Aaron Gordon record 15 points and eight rebounds in his best performance of the series.
Assuming Murray and Porter Jr. return 100% next season, the Nuggets will have to be seen as a top-end conference title contender. Their performance in Game 5 and in other close losses throughout the series proves this to a T.
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Golden State Warriors will have a difficult Round 2 matchup
The fact that Golden State was dominated by Jokic isn’t too surprising. That’s what he’s done to pretty much every team over the past two seasons. The larger question here is how these Warriors will match up against either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves in the conference semifinals.
Memphis won three of four against the Warriors during the regular season and took this team out at Chase Center in San Francisco in last year’s NBA play-in tournament. The Grizzlies grinding style of play and Ja Morant’s excellence would prove to be a difficult matchup. The presence of big man Steven Adams coupled with Dillon Brooks’ elite defense adds another layer to this.
As for Minnesota, it split four games against the Warriors and boasts a big man in Karl-Anthony Towns who dominated the Warriors during that span. Towns averaged 28.3 points and 10.8 rebounds against the Warriors. Sure the Warriors have Draymond Green back in the mix (missed three of the four regular-season games). But KAT would be a mismatch waiting to happen if Minnesota is able to overcome a 3-2 series deficit against the Grizzlies.