NBA: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets rally to stun Warriors
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NBA: Nikola Jokic hits 40-footer at buzzer, Nuggets rally to stun Warriors

/ 03:25 PM January 05, 2024

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Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic hits a game-winning 3-pointer over Golden State Warriors' Kevon Looney during an NBA basketball game in San Francisco on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024.

Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic hits a game-winning 3-pointer over Golden State Warriors’ Kevon Looney during an NBA basketball game in San Francisco on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. (Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

SAN FRANCISCO — With three seconds left in a tie game, Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone set up Nikola Jokic to be the safety valve on an inbounds pass at the far end. Jamal Murray, the first option, wasn’t available up the sideline. Neither was second-choice Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Instead, Aaron Gordon got the ball to Jokic, who took three dribbles across halfcourt, stopped and launched a 40-footer over Kevon Looney from the right sideline that banked in as time expired. That have the Nuggets a stunning 130-127 victory Thursday night after trailing by 18 points in the fourth quarter. They closed with a 25-4 run.

Jokic had 34 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. He tied it at 127 with a short jumper with 26 seconds left. Golden State’s final possession ended with Stephen Curry’s turnover, setting the the stage for Jokic’s winner.

Malone said he told Jokic during the timeout to “take two dribbles over halfcourt and shoot.”

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“And he executed the play to perfection,” Malone said. “But great players make great plays. And Nikola catching the ball and making something happen behind that is just incredible.”

Jokic said he was just trying to “get a little bit closer and just throw it to the basket.”

“I think those shots are the easiest shots to take,” Jokic said. “You don’t have any other option.”

The defending champion Nuggets have won 11 of 13 and six straight on the road. They sent the Warriors — who failed to get back to .500 after snapping a three-game skid Tuesday night — to a 1-3 start on their seven-game homestand.

Golden State has blown several double-digit leads this season.

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“These games all come down to the wire, it feels like for us this year,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ve probably lost four or five we should have won.”

Aaron Gordon scored 30 points for Denver, and Jamal Murray had 25. Curry led Golden State with 30 points. Klay Thompson added 24.

“Some are a little bit easier to swallow than others,” Curry said. “This one is definitely tough.”

Nuggets forward Peyton Watson said Jokic’s confidence in himself helps the team.

“He’s so poised and he never gets too high or too low,” Watson said. “He’s an even-keel guy. So for him to come up big in these big moments and just to show that he’s calm and poised, he calms everybody else.”

Golden State pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Denver 44-24 after trailing by double-digits early in the half. The Warriors had a 19-6 midway through the quarter, with Brandin Podziemski hitting three corner 3-pointers for a 107-94 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“I think we just didn’t want to give up,” Jokic said. “We could easily have excuses just to lose the game or we have a back-to-back tomorrow … But the guys didn’t drop their hats. We were really aggressive.”

The Nuggets took a 70-63 lead into halftime, shooting 62% from the field.

Malone said he was most proud of his team responding down big to the Warriors on the road.

“When you get down to this team, it’s very easily drop your head in this building with that crowd,” Malone said. “And that’s probably the thing I was most pleased with tonight is that everybody – coaches, players, we just stayed the course even after that third quarter which they dominated.”

The Warriors were without Draymond Green, suspended indefinitely three weeks ago, for the 11th straight game. ESPN reported Thursday that Green was expected to return to the team facility in the coming days in anticipation of a return, though coach Steve Kerr did not confirm the report before the game.

Golden State will be without Gary Payton II for another extended stretch because of a strained hamstring. The Warriors said Patyon will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

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NEXT SCHEDULE

Nuggets: Host Orlando on Friday night.

Warriors: Host Detroit on Friday night.

TAGS: Denver Nuggets, NBA

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