Defending champion Warriors lose preseason opener to Nuggets
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Kevin Durant drove through the paint for a quick one-handed slam. Stephen Curry dazzled with his dribbling and pulled up for quick 3-pointers that weren’t quite as accurate as usual.
The Golden State Warriors still looked like the dominant team they were in winning a championship just a few months ago, even in a 108-102 preseason loss to Denver on Saturday night.
The Warriors have 12 players back, including all five starters. But they don’t have their shooting touch yet, going 4 of 33 from deep. Their four All-Stars were a dismal 1 for 19.
NBA Finals MVP Durant scored 10 points in nearly 24 minutes, Curry had 11 in the NBA’s preseason opener.
Later Saturday in Southern California, Lonzo Ball made his highly anticipated Lakers debut in Anaheim against the Timberwolves, playing their first game with All-Star Jimmy Butler. Ball’s first basket was a 3-pointer with 3:47 left in the first quarter.
Warriors and Nuggets players stood through the national anthem, a week after President Donald Trump rescinded his White House invitation to Curry and his team. Warriors coach Steve Kerr indicated before the game he didn’t expect any kind of protest.
”It wasn’t a discussion or a decision,” Draymond Green said. ”We said what we had to say. Everybody knows where we stand. We don’t need to do anything else to show where we stand. Everyone knows where we stand.”
Lakers and Wolves players stood with arms locked during their anthem.
Paul Millsap had 22 points and 11 rebounds in his first game for Denver. Nikola Jokic added 12 points and six rebounds, making 7 of 10 free throws. Emmanuel Mudiay had 19 points and six assists off the bench.
Kerr only planned to use his starters 20-25 minutes with an international trip ahead. The Warriors were set to leave Sunday for China, where they will play a pair of preseason games against Minnesota.
Golden State rookie Jordan Bell had a nice alley-oop dunk in the third quarter from Green, who received his Defensive Player of the Year trophy from Ben Wallace just before tipoff.
New Warriors forward Omri Casspi was away from the team for the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur, and so was analytics guru Sammy Gelfand.
”I talked to him a couple days ago. Sammy Gelfand also will not be here tonight as he observes the holiday as well,” Kerr said. ”Whatever each person needs to do then obviously we afford them that right. It’s an important holiday for people of the Jewish faith. Omri has our full support.”
Golden State played a September game for the first time since facing Portland on Sept. 30, 1980, in Seattle. This marks the Warriors’ third trip to China after playing there previously in 2008 against Milwaukee and ’13 against the Lakers.
Kerr fondly remembered Frank Hamblen, who died Saturday at age 70. A moment of silence was held before the Lakers tipped off.
Hamblen won seven NBA championships as an assistant to Phil Jackson in Los Angeles and Chicago. The Lakers said Hamblen died in Del Mar. They did not provide a cause of death.
”He was my assistant coach in Chicago, a good friend and great coach. He will be missed,” Kerr said before the game. ”He was just a good coach, good guy. I would see him in San Diego summertime. … He was funny, he was a great basketball mind. I still remember when Frank came to the Bulls, we had basically the whole team back and the first day of camp Michael Jordan said, `Our motivation this year is to get a ring for Frank.’ He was new that year. He said, `Everybody else in this room has a ring but Frank doesn’t have one so we’re going to get you one this year’ and we did – thanks to me and Michael.”
San Antonio star Kawhi Leonard will miss the entire preseason while rehabbing an injury to his right quadriceps and the Spurs don’t have a timetable for his return.
Coach Gregg Popovich told reporters in San Antonio that the thigh has bothered Leonard since the playoffs. The two-time All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year has been rehabbing since the season ended.
”It’s just from last year, working on things from last year,” Popovich said. ”It’s gone a little more slowly than we thought.”
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