By Matthew Harrington
The standings mean little in December, but by grinding out an 89-81 victory over the Nuggets in Denver Monday night the Warriors gained the peace of mind that were the season to end today, they’d be in playing for the O’Brien Trophy. David Lee exploded for 28 points at the Pepsi Center, site of last season’s devastating season-ending injury, to push the Dubs past the Nuggets (14-13) for sole possession of eighth-place in the Western Conference in a rematch of last season’s opening round of the playoffs.
Lee did the heavy lifting for the Warriors (16-13), registering his ninth-straight double-double on a game-high 28 points and 10 rebounds on a night where most of Golden State’s buckets uncharacteristically came from in the paint. In total, just under half (44) of the Dubs 89 points came in the key. The Warriors managed to nail nearly half (7 of 16) of their shots from beyond the arc despite guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combining for only three treys on seven attempts. The pair still managed a healthy 14 and 13 points respectively.
Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov dropped 14 points on the Warriors to accompany his game-high 11 boards. The Nuggets bested the Warriors on the glass, pulling in 47 rebounds to Golden State’s 42.
Ty Lawson, ex-Warrior Nate Robinson and Andre Miller all broke double-digit points marks for the home team.
The Warriors held a decisive 30-22 lead after the first quarter but had to settle for a 47-43 lead after only scoring 17 points in the second. The Nuggets again limited the Warriors to 17 points in the third quarter to end the frame leading the visitors 66-64. The Dubs took control in the fourth, outscoring the Nuggets 25-15 for the 89-81 win.
Golden State next takes the court at Oracle Arena for a Christmas Day showdown with the fourth-place Los Angeles Clippers for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off. The Warriors will look to avenge a 126-115 loss October 31st that saw Clippers point guard Chris Paul torch Golden State for 42 points.