By Rob Johnson
Special to S.F. Examiner
DENVER — With the Golden State Warriors trailing 70-80 at the start of the fourth quarter, Stephen Curry knocked down back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the lead to 85-89. Kevin Durant — who recorded his first double-double of the season — had a game-high seven assists, with his final helper going to Andre Iguodala to tie the game at 97-97 with 1:30 left.
That was as close as the two-time defending NBA champions would get. On the final possession, Curry found a wide-open Damian Jones, but his point-blank shot was rejected by Juancho Hernangomez at the buzzer, and the Warriors lost their first game of the season, 100-98, to the Denver Nuggets.
“That was a great play … It was a great block by him,” Durant said. “You’ve got to give him credit. Steph made a huge play, dropped it off. Can’t ask for anything better.”
Golden State squandered two opportunities to tie the game down the stretch. First, Draymond Green, a career 70.7-percent free throw shooter, saw his second attempt with 9.6 seconds remaining roll out. Jamal Murray made one of two free throws on the other end to make it 100-98. That set the stage for Hernangomez’s block.
“I think so many times we try to look at, ‘Man I missed that free throw,'” Green said. “I missed one in the first half too, so if I’m going to slap myself on this side of the face for that one, then I should slap myself on the other side for the one in the first half. That’s part of the game.”
The Nuggets had a pair of players that were a tough matchup all night, with Gary Harris leading the way with 2his 8 points, and Nikola Jokic adding another 23, with 9 coming from the free-throw line.
“It seems like every game we’re coming out and committing four fouls in the first five minutes or so,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “It’s happened all three games now so we’ve got to correct it.”
Durant and the rest of the Warriors are aware of their foul issues.
“We’re a physical team,” said Durant, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds. “We have to be a little more cautious before the play. A good defense is that you do your work early before the pay starts. Sometimes, we’re a little too physical so we have to calm that down … Luckily, we have 79 more games left in the season to get our rhythm back.”