Golden State leads series 3-1

DENVER — Coach Steve Kerr stressed the importance of bringing an edge to Game 4, knowing the Nuggets, facing elimination, were going to leave everything one the court.

But that message must’ve gotten lost in translation.

Despite a valiant fourth-quarter effort, sloppy play and shoddy shooting plagued the Warriors, whom the Nuggets beat 126-121 Sunday afternoon in Denver to force a Game 5 in San Francisco. The Warriors still lead the series 3-1, and no team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit.

But with Denver facing the possibility of getting swept in the playoffs for the second straight postseason, the Nuggets played with total desperation and maintained control for most of the game, but the Warriors played their best basketball in the game’s final minutes, with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson putting on vintage performances.

Stephen Curry scored five straight points for the Warriors to give Golden State a 121-119 lead with 1:21 remaining in the game. The Nuggets answered, scoring seven unanswered points.

Ottor Porter Jr. had a bad turnover to give the Nuggets the ball with about 30 seconds left. Will Barton hit a dagger 3-pointer with eight seconds left to further cement the Nuggets’ victory.

After a slow start, Curry, who came off the bench for the fourth consecutive game, finished with 33 points in 37 minutes, the most of any Warriors, and Thompson added 32.

Emotions ran high early in the game, with Draymond Green and Aaron Gordon both receiving technicals for chirping one another after Green fouled Nikola Jokic. Green, who 13 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, ultimately fouled out in the fourth quarter.

Thompson caught fire early in the first quarter, scoring a quick eight points with a layup and back-to-back 3-pointers. But the veteran’s pilot light was dimmed after he ran into foul trouble early. He ultimately played only 10 minutes of the first half after racking up four fouls, including one late in the second quarter.

Curry, whom Kerr said is “very close” to being able to play without restrictions, replaced Thompson in the first. Curry missed his first five shots of the game, including three from behind the arc. He finally got on the board with a mid-range shot with under four minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Jokic scored 18 of the Nuggets’ 26 first-quarter points, shooting 6-of-9 from the field and a perfect 2-for-2 from 3-point range. Jokic bullied the Warriors in the paint, finishing with a game-high 37 points. It worth noting the Warriors limited the Joker to just four points in the fourth quarter.

Jonathan Kuminga, who has been patiently waiting to play meaningful minutes in a playoff game, heard his number called early in the second quarter. He missed his 3-point attempt and two free throws before scoring a high-fly dunk to pull the Warriors within 12.

The Nuggets led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter.

With the Warriors trailing by 11 at the half, Thompson started the third quarter and scored 13 points. He finished with a team-high 32 points, going 7-for-11 from 3-point range. The last time Thompson scored 30 points in a playoff game was Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals when he collapsed on the court with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Jordan Poole played more of the part of facilitator rather than scorer in Game 4. Poole had nine assists and 11 points after scoring a combined 86 points on an efficient 66.7% shooting in his first three playoff games.

The Warriors also had some uncharacteristic misses at the free-throw line, with Curry, the second best free-throw shooter in the league this season, going 10 of 11 from the charity stripe. Curry has missed eight free throws in this series.

The Nuggets’ win sends the series back to San Francisco, where the Warriors will host Game 5 at Chase Center on Thursday. If the Warriors win, they’ll advance to the next round and will play the winner of the matchup between the second-seeded Grizzlies and seventh-seeded Timberwolves. Minnesota tied that series at two wins apiece Saturday night, guaranteeing a Game 6 Friday. That means the Warriors will play no earlier than Sunday.

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