The challenge for the Nuggets? Get back to collecting turnovers, and turning those miscues into instant points.
For one half Friday night in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, Denver did what it needed by influencing the path of the ball.
When Golden State guards Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack brought the ball over halfcourt, they were immediately guided toward the wings — and trapped with active hands. Those traps resulted in turnovers at the point of attack or turnovers when the Warriors' player desperately tried to get rid of the ball.
The Nuggets had eight steals in the first half, forced 14 turnovers and cashed those in for 20 points. It was the most standout statistic in the first half and the biggest reason the Nuggets ran up 66 points and held a 12-point lead.
Then, Golden State adjusted, stormed back into the lead in the third quarter and hung on for a 110-108 win.
In the second half, the Warriors held onto the ball rather than give it away. Instead of being forced out to the wings and passively pausing, they got the ball to the middle of the court and forced the Nuggets' defense to collapse. And collapse it did, literally and figuratively.
Asked if the Nuggets drop in intensity during the game, guard Andre Miller said, "Pretty much. It didn't decide the whole game, but we still found a way to get through that and fight back and still had a chance to win at the end."
With Nuggets defenders sucked in to stop dribble penetration, the Warriors kicked the ball out to their shooters, who had much more room to get good attempts. But more than that, the Warriors were also getting points in the paint, not just settling for jump shots.
"I really didn't see any adjustment (from Golden State). I just felt like in the first half when Curry came across half court we were just trapping him, making him give up the ball before they got a drag (screen)," Nuggets guard Ty Lawson said. "That made Andrew Bogut make decisions. In the second half, I think we kind of got away from that. Curry was coming off (the pick-and-roll) hitting Bogut rolling instead of at the 3-point line or further behind the 3-point line."
Point guard Jack was the catalyst, using an array of ball-handling moves and forcing his way into the lane with his strength. If the defender was bigger, he'd drive by him. If the defender was Lawson, Jack would overpower him. He had 10 points and four assists in the third quarter, bringing the Warriors back from a 13-point deficit.