Nikola Jokic capped off an improbable Denver Nuggets comeback by hitting a running 40-foot bank shot at the buzzer to stun the Golden State Warriors 130-127 on Thursday night.
Warriors Blow 17-Point Fourth Quarter Lead
The Warriors led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter before the Nuggets staged a furious 25-4 run over the final 4 minutes to pull off the improbable victory.
Golden State held a commanding 123-106 advantage with just over 4 minutes remaining and appeared poised to cruise to their third straight win. However, sloppy play down the stretch allowed Denver to creep back into the game. Six turnovers in the final four minutes sparked the Nuggets’ transition offense.
“We lost this game in the final four minutes, no doubt about it,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr lamented. “We stopped executing and had too many careless mistakes.”
Back-to-back three pointers by Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope cut the lead to 10 with 3:30 to go. Another Warriors turnover led to a Nikola Jokic layup that made it 123-114 with 2:48 on the clock.
The Nuggets then turned up their defense, getting three straight stops which led to another 6-0 run. Stephen Curry finally broke the drought with a floater to put Golden State up 125-120 with 1:10 remaining.
After Jokic split a pair of free throws, Curry missed a wild three-pointer and Klay Thompson turned it over on the next possession leading to another Murray triple that incredibly tied the game at 125 with just 37 seconds left.
“We just locked in on defense,” Jokic said about the comeback. “We got some stops and it gave us a chance.”
Draymond Green gave the Warriors back the lead on a putback layup with 18 seconds remaining. Denver put the ball in Jokic’s hands on the ensuing possession and he found Caldwell-Pope for a game-tying corner three with 7 seconds to go.
Incredibly, the Warriors failed to get a shot on their final possession. Curry lost the handle trying to split double teams and the ball bounced free as time expired – setting up Jokic’s heroics.
Jokic’s Miracle Shot Completes Comeback
After Curry’s turnover, Jokic grabbed the loose ball and heaved up a high arcing shot from just inside midcourt that miraculously banked in as the buzzer sounded. The reigning two-time MVP took off sprinting toward the locker room, mobbed by teammates as the Denver crowd erupted into pandemonium.
“I didn’t have any options,” Jokic said about the frenetic final sequence. “I just decided to shoot it and it went in. I just knew it was going in.”
Jokic finished with 28 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists for his third straight triple double. Murray added 28 points of his own while Caldwell-Pope chipped in 18 off the bench.
For Golden State, Curry led all scorers with 33 points but shot just 11-of-28 from the field. Thompson added 22 points while Green flirted with a triple double, posting 9 points, 9 rebounds and 12 assists.
The loss dropped the Warriors to 23-15, just percentage points ahead of the Nuggets for the #3 seed in the Western Conference. The two teams have developed an intense rivalry over the past several years, meeting in the playoffs three times since 2019. Denver got the better of Golden State last season, eliminating the Warriors in the second round on their way to an eventual NBA title.
Thursday night’s epic comeback adds another chapter in the burgeoning feud. Players and coaches from both sides were still trying to process the dramatic finish after the game.
“It’s definitely up there as one of the most painful [losses] just because we controlled that whole game,” Thompson said shaking his head. “We were right there. That one hurts bad.”
“That’s a heartbreaker. What a comeback by Denver,” a solemn Kerr added. “We let our guard down.”
Meanwhile the Nuggets were jubilant after pulling off the improbable rally.
“Best game winner I’ve ever seen!” Murray yelled during postgame interviews. “That’s why Jok is the MVP!”
Even longtime NBA broadcaster Charles Barkley got caught up in the hysteria, declaring Jokic’s shot an “all-timer” during the TNT postgame show.
“Man, I’ve been watching basketball a long time,” Barkley exclaimed. “That bank shot by Jokic is going right up there with Laettner’s shot and MJ’s shot over Ehlo. Just an incredible way to end that game!”
The Nuggets and Warriors won’t have to wait long for a rematch. The two teams square off again on Saturday night at Chase Center in San Francisco.
You can bet the Warriors will be out for vengeance after letting Thursday’s game slip away. Meanwhile, Denver rides a wave of momentum into the second leg of this mini-series after the confidence boost of overcoming a 17-point fourth quarter deficit.
“We’ll be ready Saturday,” Green said about the rematch. “I know that one left a bad taste. We’ll get our revenge.”
Jokic cautioned reading too much into one regular season game but expects another playoff-type intensity when the teams clash again.
“It’s just another game on the schedule,” Jokic downplayed. “But it’s Warriors-Nuggets so you know the energy will be high.”
Beyond the immediate rematch, Thursday’s thriller could have ramifications come playoff positioning time if these two juggernauts end up battling for the final home court slots out West.
But for now, the Nuggets are reveling in their comeback victory while the Warriors are left searching for answers after letting a golden opportunity slip through their fingers.
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