The Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors will continue to take a big-picture approach to the start of the season when the 2022 Western Conference postseason rivals duel in San Francisco on Friday night.
The Nuggets and Warriors appeared more concerned with the long-term well-being of their star players than the game outcomes on Opening Night, when Denver lost at Utah on Wednesday after Golden State had opened at home with a win over the Los Angeles Lakers the night before.
The Nuggets welcomed back Jamal Murray (knee) and Michael Porter Jr. (back) against the Jazz after each had missed the entire 2021-22 season with serious injuries. They combined for 27 points in a 123-102 defeat.
Happy to see Murray and Porter back in the starting lineup, the Nuggets were dizzied by the rebuilding Jazz right from the get-go, watching Utah pour in 37 first-quarter points and 38 in the second en route to a shocking, 75-53 halftime lead.
The Nuggets improved in the second half, getting within seven at one point, but couldn’t get over the hump.
Murray finished with 12 points and added two rebounds and two steals, a performance he was happy with. “That was the first time I completed a whole game,” he said after going 26 minutes. “I can check that off my list.”
Aaron Gordon can check off his first double-double of the season with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while reigning Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic went for a game-high 27 points.
The Warriors did a good job on Jokic in last year’s first-round playoff matchup, which Golden State won 4-1. The object of increased defensive scrutiny with Murray and Porter on the sidelines, Jokic was harassed throughout the series and recorded a plus/minus of -44 in 171 minutes.
Klay Thompson was a key performer in the series for the Warriors, leading all players with 173 minutes after having previously been restricted following a return in January from a 2 1/2-year absence due to ACL and Achilles injuries. His 22.6-point scoring average against the Nuggets was second on the Warriors to Stephen Curry’s 28.0.
But Thompson is back on a “pitch count” to open this season, with Golden State coach Steve Kerr limiting him to 20 minutes in the win over the Lakers.
Kerr also allowed Draymond Green 25 minutes after an incomplete preseason in which he took a leave of absence in the aftermath of having thrown a punch at teammate Jordan Poole.
“We’ll have to ease into it a little bit,” Kerr said of Thompson and Green. “But we’re planning on playing a lot of people anyway this year. We’ve got a lot of depth and we want to use it. We’ve got to be able to rely on it the first couple of weeks.”
Using an 11-man rotation, Kerr watched his bench outscore their Lakers counterparts 41-24. That more than accounted for the 14-point margin of victory.
The Warriors will be looking for their fifth 2-0 start in the nine-year Kerr era. Meanwhile, Denver has opened 0-2 once previously (two seasons ago) in coach Michael Malone’s eight years.
–Field Level Media