DENVER — The Denver Nuggets weren't a playoff team last year, but they played well against teams that did reach the postseason.
One of those clubs was the Golden State Warriors, who set a regular-season record with 73 wins. Included in that total was an overtime win at home against Denver on Jan. 2.
The Nuggets, however, beat the Warriors nearly two weeks later at home. They will want to repeat that success Thursday night when they host the Western Conference champs.
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Denver isn't intimidated by the Warriors' imposing roster.
“We are better than last year, 100 percent,” Nikola Jokic told the Denver Post. “We need to play better and get better at finishing games.”
That was never more evident than Tuesday when the Nuggets lost to the Memphis Grizzlies, 108-107, on a buzzer-beater by Marc Gasol. Denver had the game won but kicked it away after Emmanuel Mudiay's dunk gave the Nuggets a 107-106 lead with 7.9 seconds left.
After forcing a turnover, Mike Miller threw away an inbounds pass, and that led to Gasol's heroics.
It was the Nuggets' second tough loss of the season. Denver (3-4) gave away an eight-point lead to the Portland Trail Blazers in the final 48 seconds and lost in overtime in its only home game to date.
“We've got to win them,” Mudiay told the Post. “If we're that close, you don't want to come in second place.”
The Warriors (6-2) know all about blowing leads. They had a 3-1 advantage in the NBA Finals, only to see the Cleveland Cavaliers rally to win Game 7 in Oakland, Calif., and steal the title.
Golden State won't match its 73-win total from last season. The Warriors won their first 24 games but are 6-2 this season after a 116-95 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. They are still working on integrating Kevin Durant into the rotation, and there have been some growing pains.
“It's a process. That word sucks, but it is what it is,” Andre Iguodala told the San Francisco Examiner. “Everyone's making adjustments and everyone's trying to — it's like kind of (a) feeling out type of thing. You have so much talent — especially with one major guy who's new — and you want him to be as comfortable as possible.”
Golden State is still winning while the lineup finds a rhythm. After getting blown out by the San Antonio Spurs on opening night two weeks ago, the Warriors reeled off three straight road wins. The Thursday game was just their third at home, and they took care of business against the Mavericks.
Now it is the Nuggets who will try to take care of business. Thursday starts a stretch of nine of their next 12 games at home. They should get guard Will Barton back in the next few days, which means they will have a full, healthy roster for the first time this season, forcing coach Michael Malone to make tough decisions in the rotation.
“It's impossible to keep 15 guys happy, I realize that,” Malone told the Post. “My goal is not to keep anybody happy. My goal is to win as many games as possible while trying to keep everybody at least understanding what their role is and how they can help this team.”