OAKLAND, Calif. — Standing outside the visitors’ locker room Saturday afternoon, Nuggets coach Michael Malone proclaimed that no one was giving his team a chance to beat the defending champion Golden State Warriors on their home floor on the second night of a back-to-back set.
But the Nuggets will head into Christmas by finishing off a road sweep in two of the NBA’s rowdiest venues in less than 24 hours.
Denver clamped down on the normally lethal Warriors from downtown and answered any mini-charge by the defending champions to clinch a 96-81 victory at Oracle Arena.
The Nuggets’ win snapped an 11-game winning streak for Golden State, which played Saturday without sharpshooting superstar Stephen Curry, starting big man Zaza Pachulia and reserve guard Shaun Livingston because of injuries. Denver (18-15) improved its road record to 7-12.
Denver limited the Warriors, who entered Saturday leading the NBA in 3-point field-goal percentage, to 3-of-27 from deep in the Warriors’ lowest scoring output of the season. The Nuggets also held the edge in rebounds (45 to 38) while forcing 19 turnovers that they turned into 21 points.
The Nuggets led by as many as 14 points in the first half, spearheaded by an 11-0 second-quarter run in which Gary Harris scored seven of his game-high 19 points. Then they withstood any Warriors spurt that sent the home crowd into temporary roars.
When a Draymond Green follow layup cut the Nuggets’ advantage to 58-51 early in the third quarter, Mason Plumlee connected on a layup and Wilson Chandler drilled a 3-pointer to stretch that lead back to double digits. When a Klay Thompson layup got Golden State within 60-53, Chandler finished an old-fashioned three-point play. When Andre Iguadola scored in transition to cut Denver’s lead to 71-62 with less than a minute left in the third, Trey Lyles answered with a layup.
That lead grew to as many as 16 points in the final frame, when Jamal Murray nailed a 3-pointer early and later Harris converted a three-point play to make the score 80-64.
Five Nuggets finished in double figures: Harris, Nikola Jokic (18 points, nine rebounds, four assists), Murray (14 points, six rebounds, five assists), Chandler (15 points, nine rebounds) and Lyles (15 points, six rebounds).
Kevin Durant scored 18 points and Thompson added 15, but combined to shoot just 12-of-38 from the floor. They and the rest of the starters came out of the game with about three minutes to play.