OAKLAND -#8212; The Warriors entered Thursday night's game with ambitions of clinching a playoff spot. Instead, they may have clinched the title of NBA's most infuriating team, wasting a 20-point second-quarter lead against the shorthanded Denver Nuggets and eventually falling 100-99 before a stunned crowd at Oracle Arena.
Even by the standards of the up-and-down Warriors, this one was a disaster.
The Nuggets did not shoot well, but they destroyed Golden State on the boards, holding advantages of 63-38 in rebounds and 27-4 in second-chance points. Denver center Timofey Mozgov had 29 rebounds -#8212; the most against the Warriors this season, and most of Mozgov's career -#8212; to go with his 23 points, and Kenneth Faried added 17 rebounds.
"They get extra shots because of offensive rebounding," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "It hurt us. And the disappointing point for us is, 20-point lead and we began to get out of character -#8212; bad shots, bad plays, taking plays off, and all of a sudden you give them life. And I don't care, anybody in this league, you give them life and there's gonna be a price to pay. And for us, we lost."
It was Faried, not considered a shooting threat, who put away the Warriors with a short, herky-jerky turnaround jumper with :00.5 on the clock. Stephen Curry got off a desperate 3-point attempt as the buzzer sounded, but it hit the front of the rim.
And these are not the Nuggets who made the playoffs a year ago, either. The last time these two teams played, here on Jan. 15, Denver won 123-116 as four of its players scored more than 20 points. But this time, three of those players -#8212; Nate Robinson, Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler -#8212; were shelved by injuries. So was J.J. Hickson, who had 24 rebounds in that January game.
And so the Warriors will have to wait at least another night to wrap up a playoff spot. Their hopes of catching the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference also took a hit.
After chipping away at Golden State's big lead, the Nuggets finally tied it at 80-80 on Mozgov's jumper with about 8:45 left in the game, and went ahead 83-80 on Darrell Arthur's 3-pointer a moment later.
The Nuggets built their edge to five points, but the Warriors regained the lead before it was over. It was a heck of a game down the stretch, much to the chagrin of the antsy Oakland fans.
It looked like Curry had given the Warriors another miracle win when he gathered Evan Fournier's missed shot, dribbled the length of the court, killed a little time and coolly arched a high basket over Faried for a 99-98 lead with four seconds left.
"I've had that situation a couple times, where we don't call a timeout and just push it, because it's hard to set the defense up," Curry said. "I don't know how many dribbles I had but it was a lot, and just trying to find a gap. I didn't want to rush the shot. ... Draymond (Green) was able to set a good screen. I was able to get a big on his heels and then get by him and finish up the basket."