On paper, the Warriors' game against the Nuggets on Monday at Chase Center looked like it would all go against Golden State.
They had just lost James Wiseman to a meniscus tear. Kelly Oubre Jr. also was missing the game with a wrist sprain. The Nuggets were coming off a bad loss to the Celtics the night before and wanted to get back on a winning streak.
Yet, when the ball was tipped, everything was matched. The energy, the scoring, all of it felt even-keeled. But as the night went on, all of the momentum shifted toward the Warriors and they walked away with a 116-107 win.
The Warriors improved to 26-28 with the win and remained in 10th place in the West, keeping pace with the victorious Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs in the race for seeding in the play-in tournament. The fourth-place Nuggets fell to 34-20.
Perhaps it was Steph Curry becoming the Warriors' new all-time leading scorer while dropping a 50-burger, finishing with 53 points. Maybe it was Kent Bazemore's 14 points that came at all the right times. Or Juan Toscano-Anderson's insistent grit and hustle. Or Damion Lee's boost off the bench. Whatever it was, it became all Warriors.
The Warriors should not only be pleased with the fact that they won, but they did it with a complete game. The defense tightened up and the offense was as good as we've seen this season.
Here are three takeaways from one of the Warriors' best wins of the season:
Steph makes history
Heading into Monday's game, Steph Curry needed just 19 points the break Wilt Chamberlain's record as the Warriors' all-time leading scorer.
It took Curry about 10 minutes to do so.
He became the Warriors leading scorer with 1:40 left in the first quarter when he drove by Denver's PJ Dozier and JaVale McGee to finish a reverse layup. Curry now has 17,818 career points with the Warriors.
Curry broke the record in the most Curry of fashions. He was bombing three-pointers from the start, while also mixing in some of his classic handles and dazzling layups, such as the one that got him the title.
But he didn't stop there. He scored 30 points in the first half -- marking his 14th career 30-point half and making him the first Warriors since Rick Barry in 1967 to have seven consecutive games with at least 30 points.
He finished the night with his ninth career 50-point game, scoring 53 points on 14-of-24 shooting.
Need more? Curry recorded his 18th-career game of 10-or-more three-point baskets, making him the only player in NBA history to have more than five such games. Klay Thompson is the player with five.
Third quarter was the game-changer
Getting off to energetic starts has been an issue for the Warriors. Yet the last few games, they have been able to start hot. That was the case against the Nuggets.
The Warriors' offense was strong from the tip, but defense was an issue, allowing the Nuggets to shoot nearly 70 percent early on. But heading into halftime, the Warriors were down just five. And then in the third quarter, everything changed.
Golden State went on a monstrous 43-22 run, which saw every Warrior who touched the floor contribute. Their defense picked up, and with every stop, the Warriors gained more and more momentum on offense.
As this happened, the Nuggets got more and more frustrated, struggling to regain their composure to stop the damage, combusting when Juan Toscano-Anderson threw down a poster on Monte Morris. As the two jarred under the basket and got double technicals, the Warriors bench stood, applauding Toscano-Anderson and looking at his tech as a reward.
For Morris and the Nuggets, it was just another blow.
The Warriors managed to build a 16-point lead by the end of the quarter.
Few bigs, few problems
With James Wiseman sidelined indefinitely with a right meniscus tear and Eric Paschall out for another few days, the Warriors had just one true center available: Kevon Looney.
And going against one of the best centers in the NBA in Nikola Jokic, size was an obvious disadvantage for the Warriors. Frankly, even if Wiseman and Paschall were available, that matchup wasn't going to favor the Warriors.
However, they made it work.
Draymond Green was incredibly active, finishing the night with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting including 2-of-3 from three, seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and being a pest on Jokic all night.
"Maybe the question should be how do we speed him up?" Kerr said pregame when asked how to slow Jokic down.
It sounded like a joke at the time, but it's exactly what the Warriors did. They pushed the pace and relied heavily on their shooting to stick in the game, hitting 18 threes. Now, the Warriors will not always be able to pull this off, so it will behoove them to find another center to fill out their frontcourt, but on Monday night it worked out.