NBA

NBA Game of the Week: Nuggets will need more than Jokic to topple Warriors

By Sports Desk October 21, 2022

It is too early to read anything into the new NBA season. After all, the 2022-23 campaign is only getting started.

Then again, premature assumptions are all part of the fun of following sport, especially basketball.

Things began well for the Golden State Warriors as the defending champions beat the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night.

Hauls of 33 points from Stephen Curry, 20 from Andrew Wiggins and 18 from Klay Thompson were enough to see the Warriors beat LeBron James and the Lakers 123-109 on Tuesday, though they will likely expect a sterner test from the Denver Nuggets on Friday.

The visitors have two-time MVP Nikola Jokic to call on, with the Serbian showing off his abilities with a strong opening performance against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

Jokic recorded 27 points, four rebounds and six assists, though it was not enough to stop his team suffering defeat.

The Jazz ran out 123-102 victors, with the Nuggets defense unable to stop their opponents from scoring 75 points in the first half at Vivint Arena.

Coach Michael Malone was pleased with his team's response in the second half, but acknowledged the league will not allow you to "pick and choose".

''In that first half [the Jazz] outworked us and I think to a man everyone in [our] locker room would agree,'' Malone said. ''We looked like a different team, felt like a different team [in the second half]. But in this league you can't pick and choose when you play.''

Against a Warriors team capable of taking a game away in an instant, that has to be the main area of focus for Denver at Chase Center.

Following the Draymond Green-Jordan Poole incident that Steve Kerr described as "the biggest crisis we've had since I've been coach here", the Warriors will be hoping to further put that behind them with another home win.

Repeat their impressive showing from their opening game, and you would be a fool to bet against that happening.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors – Stephen Curry

I mean… who else?

Curry continued his inspired form from last season's Finals to top-score against the Lakers, recording six rebounds and seven assists on top of his 33 points, though he only shot four from 13 three-point attempts.

If he can find his range against the Nuggets, who knows how many points he could put up? Which will take pressure off his teammates and allow them to focus on stopping Jokic.

Denver Nuggets – Aaron Gordon

In reality, it's Jokic, but his high levels are almost there to be taken for granted right now.

In addition, Wednesday showed that even a brilliant outing from him does not lead to a win for Denver without others helping him, which Gordon at least did, and will likely need to do again.

His 22 points, 10 rebounds and two assists provided some support, but those points scored and rebound numbers were way up on his average for last season (15.0 and 5.9 per game) so the test will be to repeat it.

KEY BATTLES – Nuggets have to tighten it up

Although the Nuggets leaked points like a sieve in Utah, it was not due to one particular opponent running riot.

Utah's top scorer was Collin Sexton with 20, but seven Jazz players reached double figures on the night, showing that Denver did not seem capable of stopping anyone from finding the hoop.

They averaged 110.4 points against in the league last season, the 14th best in the NBA, and will surely need to keep the champions down there or below if they are to stand a chance.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Nuggets actually enjoyed a productive time against the Warriors last season, winning the first three meetings against them, before Golden State took the fourth. Since the start of the 2014-15 campaign, the Warriors have won 16 of their 27 clashes (Denver winning the other 11).

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