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What you need to know about the Warriors’ late letdown against the Nuggets

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Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors couldn’t overcome a tough travel schedule and win in Denver on Saturday night. (Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/TNS)

The Golden State Warriors stumbled down the stretch against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night, falling 115-108 to their Western Conference neighbors.

On a night when the Warriors started strong, struggled from distance and capped their mini-road trip with a 1-2 record, here’s what you need to know …

The third-quarter burst quickly transformed into a late washout. As is so often the case, the Warriors appeared to be sprinting away from their opponents in the third period.

The kings of the third quarter produced a 17-3 run, held the Nuggets without a field goal for three-minutes-and-55-seconds and built a 12-point advantage.

Then the trouble began. After a 26-foot step back from Stephen Curry with 5:42 to go gave the Warriors a 77-65 lead, the Nuggets outscored their guests, 50-31. Denver shooting guard Will Barton really took it to the Warriors, pouring in 25 points, shooting 9-for-17 from the field.

The letdown can be partly explained by the demands of the back-to-back. After beating the Sacramento Kings on Friday night, the Warriors didn’t make it to their hotel in Denver until 4 a.m on Saturday morning.

Kevin Durant locked in after an uncharacteristically quiet start. The reigning Finals MVP didn’t take a single field goal in the opening quarter, managing just a pair of points on two free throws. Over the final three frames, Durant went for 31 — including 14 in the second — on his way to becoming the high-point man of the game.

The 3-point line was not kind to the Warriors. After starting 4-for-5 from distance, the Warriors went ice cold. The club proceeded to miss their next 13 attempts before Stephen Curry finally ended the drought early in the third.

Overall, the Warriors were 8-for-31 (25.8 percent) from beyond the arc.

For the second time in as many games, Zaza Pachulia nearly recorded his first triple of the season. A night after dropping eight points and 13 rebounds on the Kings, Pachulia enjoyed another productive outing, going for 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a steal.

On a night when the Warriors were without David West, who was attending a funeral, Pachulia played 19 minutes and was full of energy, diving on the deck for loose balls. The veteran center finished a team-high +12.

JaVale McGee had a weird line. McGee, who has slotted back into the rotation with Jordan Bell out (ankle), was the first big off the bench against Denver. McGee only ended up playing briefly, and posted one bizarre stat line in the process: 6 minutes,
5 fouls, 4 blocks, 3 rebounds and 0 points.

Kevon Looney lost a tooth! In the closing seconds of the third quarter, Looney took an errant elbow to the mouth as he rose to the rim and was fouled amid traffic. Players and referees had to search for the tooth before finally locating it on the baseline.

Per NBA rules, which stipulate that a player must take his own free throws if he’s going to return to the game, Looney had to head to the line and close out the quarter before disappearing down the tunnel.

In Looney’s absence, young big man Damian Jones drew a rare cameo. Jones played four minutes and delivered one block. Looney actually made it back into the game with 4:28 on the clock.

Nick Young closed out the fourth. Young — not Andre Iguoldala — was the fifth member of the death lineup. Young was -11 in his 17 minutes. Iguodala was -7 in his 21, but did knock down a triple — just his second in the last 11 games.

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