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OAKLAND — The Warriors already didn’t have forward Kevin Durant. He missed his third consecutive game with a strained right calf.

With 37.9 seconds left in the first quarter of their 124-114 win against the Denver Nuggets, the Warriors almost lost guard Stephen Curry, too.

Center Jordan Bell blocked a shot right to guard Patrick McCaw, who caught the ball and flung it forward to Curry for a fast break. Nuggets guard Malik Beasley was the only player remotely near Curry, and Beasley was a few steps behind him.

Instead of running hard to the hoop, Curry slowed down to draw contact. He jumped, double pumped in the air and Beasley knocked him to the ground.

Curry missed the layup. He got up, quickly bent over in pain, sunk both free throws and walked to the locker room. He had aggravated his sore left knee which bothered him before the game.

No Durant. No Curry.

But, the aggravated knee injury wasn’t serious. Curry came back with 4:36 left in the second quarter (he missed only 8:01 of game time) and drained his first shot after he returneed — a 25-foot 3-pointer from the corner.

“He’s a tough little dude,” forward David West said after the game.

Curry finished with 32 points and nine assists.

Before the game, the NBA named Curry the Western Conference Player of the Week. Curry has won this award 11 times during his career — more than any player in franchise history.

Since returning from an ankle injury on December 30, Curry has scored 35.2 per game and the Warriors have scored 127 points per game.

“He has been so brilliant since he has been back,” head coach Steve Kerr said at his postgame press conference.

The last time the Warriors played the Nuggets — Dec. 23 — the Nuggets won 96-81 at Oracle Arena. Curry didn’t play in that game. Durant did, and scored only 18 points on 18 shots.

This time with Curry playing and Durant in street clothes, the Warriors beat the Nuggets easily.

At the end of the first quarter, the Warriors already had an 11-point lead. Klay Thompson led the Warriors in scoring during that quarter with nine points. He finished the game with 19.

Stephen Curry had four assists and seven points in the first quarter before leaving the game shortly with a tweaked knee.

And Draymond Green recorded eight points, five assists and two rebounds in the first quarter. He finished the game with 10 assists, six rebounds and a season-high 23 points. Almost a triple double. The Warriors are 21-0 when Green records a triple double. He last recorded one Sunday against the Houston Rockets. He had 17 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in that game.

Against the Nuggets, the Warriors led 64-57 when the third quarter started. But, the Nuggets quickly went on a 10-3 run and tied the game at 67. Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic hit four shots in a row — he finished the game with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in 36 minutes — and guard Jamal Murray hit a jumper from the left wing.

The Warriors immediately responded. Center Zaza Pachulia made a layup, guard Klay Thompson made a turnaround 2-pointer, Curry hit a pullup 2-pointer, Thompson hit a pullup 3-pointer and Curry made two free throws to complete the 11-2 run.

The Warriors led 80-71 with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter at the end of the run.

“That was a big point in the game,” Kerr said. “They really took it to us to start the third and got right back in the game and we were threatened and were not playing that well. That’s when Steph got going.

“It was an interesting game for Steph. For anybody else, you look at the box score and you (see) 32 points and nine assists. But, I didn’t think he played that well. This is Steph Curry on a night when he’s not maybe at his best. He’s still dominating the game in parts. He hit the big shots during that stretch that really created the separation we needed.”

As important as Curry was, the backups played a big role in the win, too. They scored 41 points.

“(The Warriors have) won championships without Kevin Durant,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said before the game. “Obviously with Steph back, he appears to be super aggressive, and he’s shooting 53 or 54 percent from the 3-point line since he’s been back. It’s still a great challenge. And being here about a week and a half ago and beating them, I’m sure that’s still very fresh in their memory bank and they’re looking to get a little bit of payback.”

Malone was right. The Warriors got payback.

At the halfway point of the season, their record is 33-8. They have the best winning percentage in the NBA.

And they still have Curry, the former MVP.

“The knee is fine,” he said. “Just wear and tear. We’ve got the best athletic trainers. (They have) all sorts of taping mechanisms to get you back on the floor pain free.”

The other former MVP — Durant — could return Wednesday when the Warriors play the LA Clippers.


Andre Iguodala hit his first 3-pointer in nine games he’s played since Dec. 18, snapping an 0-for-12 funk from deep when he made one in the first.

Golden State rookie Jordan Bell took a hard fall in the second quarter and moved gingerly afterward.

Newly crowned U.S. figure skating national champion Nathan Chen attended the game, watched Curry’s warmup and was set to meet him afterward.

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