NBA

Jokic leads Nuggets past fast-finishing Warriors, LeBron and Westbrook end Lakers' five-game skid

By Sports Desk December 29, 2021

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets with a double-double as they withstood the Golden State Warriors' second-half charge to win 89-86 on Tuesday.

MVP contender Stephen Curry only managed two first-half points as the Warriors produced arguably their worst half of the season before storming back in the second half to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

Jokic, who had 22 points, 18 rebounds and five assists, made a key defensive stop on rookie Jonathan Kuminga after his own turnover at 88-86 before Andre Igoudala missed a three-point attempt on the buzzer to force over-time.

Curry's output increased dramatically in the second half to finish with 23 points including five triples, as the Warriors reeled in the Nuggets after trailing by 24 points. The Warriors' two-time MVP had six turnovers for the game.

However, Curry also reached another milestone with his 3,000 career three-point attempt made, marking 157 straight games with a triple.

Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points with eight rebounds with the Warriors without Draymond Green who entered COVID-19 protocols this week. The result means the ladder-leading Warriors fall to 27-7 while the Nuggets improve above .500 to 17-16.

 

LeBron and Russ end Lakers' skid

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook both recorded triple-doubles as the Los Angeles Lakers ended their five-game skid with a 132-123 victory over the Houston Rockets. James had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists while Westbrook added 24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points with six rebounds and six assists in his second game since returning from COVID-19 protocols while Bobby Portis nailed five three-pointers in his 19-point haul as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Orlando Magic 127-110.

Joel Embiid had 36 points with 11 rebounds while Tobias Harris (19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) recorded a rare triple-double as the Philadelphia 76ers knocked off the Toronto Raptors 114-109.

 

Randle loses handle in offense

Last season's Most Improved Player Julius Randle continues to struggle to re-discover his offensive games, shooting five of 20 from the field and having only two assists in the New York Knicks' 96-88 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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    The Warriors came back from 53-34 down with seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, holding the Dallas Mavericks to 13 points in the third period, before winning the last frame 43-32 to run over the top late.

    Curry top-scored for the Warriors with 32 points on 11-of-21 shooting, while Jordan Poole was terrific off the bench with 23 on seven-of-10 shooting, including 12 in the fourth quarter.

    Despite the loss, Doncic scored a game-high 42 points on 12-of-23 shooting, while also dishing a game-high eight assists.

    During Curry's post-game media appearance, he said he feels like the Warriors have figured a lot out defensively over the course of the season, but players like Doncic are simply "nice like that".

    "[Chemistry] is something that's been slowly building over the course of the regular season," he said. 

    "It didn't always show on the court, but the roles, and how we play on both ends of the floor, everybody is comfortable with what they're being asked to do.

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    "He understands he's going to get scored on – because Luka is nice like that – but over the course of 48 minutes you figure out how to wear him down a little bit, and go back at him on the offensive end."

    He went on to say he does not think about the Mavericks' lack of playoff experience, with the Warriors instead focusing on imposing their will.

    "It's not [Dallas' lack of experience] – it's just the supreme confidence in what we do," he said.

    "You don't really know what they're talking about in the huddle, you don't feel what's going through their mind, it's just you imposing your will.

    "For us, the experience, and the chemistry – obviously this group is a bit different – but we have that attitude and spirit that we feel we're never out of it. I think only one game in this playoff run we've been severely outmatched from start-to-finish.

    "That belief then turns into execution in the game, and you can feel the momentum. It's more focused on what we do, and when you have the opportunity to stick in the dagger, or come up with three stops in a row, those are the times when you feel that good energy."

    Curry also touched on the Mavs' hot start, which saw them put up 72 points in the first half, and how the Warriors can make large deficits disappear in a hurry.

    "We knew they were going to come out aggressive, and making shots," he said. 

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    "When you can limit a team like that to 13 points [in a quarter] – it wasn't like a flurry, but it seemed like we regained the momentum, and slowly, and methodically walked them down.

    "The first six minutes of the fourth quarter was kind of the real momentum shift – it gave the crowd some life, and gave us some life, and allowed us to run away with the win."

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