OAKLAND, Calif. — A head-to-head between the NBA’s best 3-point shooting team and the league’s second worst at defending the arc was, predictably, a mismatch Saturday night.
Just not the type that the numbers would have predicted.
The Denver Nuggets limited the Golden State Warriors to 3 of 27 on 3-point shooting, stunning the defending NBA champions 96-81 on the second night of back-to-backs for both teams.
The loss ended the Warriors’ 11-game winning streak on the eve of their showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day in a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals.
“You flush this down the toilet and move on,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr insisted. “We just didn’t have it. They were the better team. They deserved it.”
Coming off a tremendous defensive effort in a 102-85 win at Portland on Friday night, the Nuggets were even better less than 24 hours later, harassing Warriors stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson into a combined 12-of-38 shooting, including 1 of 15 on 3-pointers.
“What a great effort. What a great performance. What a great win for us,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Wilson Chandler on Kevin Durant, and Gary Harris guarding Klay Thompson ... not just them but the whole team. But those guys took that challenge head-on and did a phenomenal job.”
Harris led five players in double figures with 19 points for the Nuggets, who were thumped 127-108 at home by the Warriors earlier this season when Golden State matched its season high with 18 3-pointers.
This time, the Warriors’ season high was in consecutive misses — 20 from the first minute of the game to the second-to-last minute of the third quarter.
It certainly was not what anyone expected from a team that had made 39.6 percent of its 3-pointers and was up against a club that had been scorched from deep to the tune of 37.8 percent.
“I can’t remember seeing many teams hold that team to 3-of-27 from the 3-point line,” Malone said. “Coming off a great win (Friday at Portland), I think teams that don’t have big plans would have said, ‘We split. We’re going to lose to Golden State. Let’s go home.’ That was never our mentality.
“It’s going to make Christmas that much merrier.”
Denver led by as many as six points in the first quarter, and by 14 in the second and third quarters, before never allowing the Warriors closer than 11 in the final 12 minutes.
“Definitely frustrating,” said Durant, whose 0-of-5 night from beyond the arc was a season worst. “You’ve got to make shots in this league. We missed shots. Turned the ball over 17 times. Just kept digging ourselves a hole.”
Nikola Jokic had 18 points, Chandler and Trey Lyles 15 apiece and Jamal Murray 14 for balanced Denver, which shot 46.3 percent from the field and 7 of 28 (25 percent) on 3-pointers.
The game was befitting the Nuggets’ season in one way: They’ve had only three games decided by five or fewer points. In other words, they’ve usually either been very good or very bad.
“We’re on a high,” Lyles said. “We came out and played well on this road trip defensively. It carried us.”
Durant led the Warriors with 18 points. Thompson finished with 15, including a 3-pointer with 7:55 to go that allowed him to extend his streak of making at least one to 87 games, the fourth-longest run in NBA history.
Thompson’s 1-of-10 night on 3s was his worst of the season and second worst of his career, eclipsed only by a 1-of-11 outing last March at Chicago.
The 81 points were a season low for the Warriors, whose previous worst was 88 in a loss at Boston in November.
The Nuggets’ 81 points allowed was their second fewest of the season. They had given up at least 110 points to the Warriors in their last nine meetings.
Denver led 22-20 after one quarter, then used an 11-0 burst fueled by two Harris 3-pointers to go up 48-35 with 3:45 remaining in the half.
The Warriors’ shooting woes started early. After Draymond Green buried a 3-pointer on Golden State’s first possession of the game, the Warriors missed their last 10 from beyond the arc in the half while falling behind 53-41.
NOTES: Warriors SF Kevin Durant attempted at least five 3-pointers and missed them all for the 18th time in his career. It happened three times last season. ... Durant’s two blocks increased his career total to 800. ... The Warriors fell to 7-1 since losing PG Stephen Curry to an ankle injury. ... Warriors PF Draymond Green had X-rays on his left elbow after the game. They were negative. ... The Nuggets, who entered the game with a 1,444-1,443 season rebounding advantage over the Warriors, won the battle of the boards 45-38, with SF Wilson Chandler and PF Nikola Jokic grabbing nine apiece. ... The Nuggets have had only three games decided by five or fewer points this season. ... The Nuggets return to Denver to play four of their next five at home. ... Nuggets C Mason Plumlee left the court in the third quarter to have his left ring finger examined. He had it taped to his left pinkie and returned to action in the fourth quarter.