The Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors will continue to take a big approach early in the season when the 2022 Western Conference postseason rivals duel in San Francisco on Friday night.
The Nuggets and Warriors seemed more concerned about the long-term well-being of their star players than opening night game results when Denver lost in Utah on Wednesday after Golden State opened at home with a win over the Los Angeles Lakers the night before.
The Nuggets welcomed Jamal Murray (knee) and Michael Porter Jr. (back) against the Jazz after each missed the entire 2021-22 season with serious injuries. They scored 27 points together in a 123-102 loss.
Happy to see Murray and Porter back on the starting lineup, the Nuggets were dazed from the start with the Jazz’s rebuilding as they watched Utah take 37 points in the first quarter and 38 in the second on their way to a shocking 75-53 Points scored at half time in the lead.
The Nuggets improved in the second half, coming within seven at one point but failing to clear the hump.
Murray finished with 12 points and added two rebounds and two steals, a feat he was happy with. “It was the first time I played a whole game,” he said after 26 minutes. “I can tick that off my list.”
Aaron Gordon clocked his first double-double of the season with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while reigning Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic had a game-high 27 points.
The Warriors did a good job against Jokic in last year’s first-round playoff match, which Golden State won 4-1. Jokic, the subject of increased defensive scrutiny with Murray and Porter on the touchlines, was harassed throughout the series, posting a -44 plus/minus in 171 minutes.
Klay Thompson was a key player in the series for the Warriors, leading all players with 173 minutes, having previously been sidelined following a return in January after a 2 1/2 year absence with cruciate ligament and Achilles injuries. His 22.6 scoring average against the Nuggets was second with 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, during which he took a leave of absence after delivering a punch to teammate Jordan Poole.
“We need to sit back a little,” Kerr said of Thompson and Green. “But we still plan to play a lot of people this year. We have a lot of depth and want to use it. We have to be able to rely on that in the first few weeks.”
With an 11-man rotation, Kerr watched his bench best their Lakers counterparts 41-24. That accounted for more than the 14-point lead of victory.
The Warriors will be aiming for their fifth 2-0 start in the nine-year Kerr era. Meanwhile, Denver has opened 2-0 once (two seasons ago) in Michael Malone’s eight years.