Michael Malone made a bold statement in June, right after he coached the Nuggets to the first NBA title in franchise history — Denver could win it all again.
Eight games into the season, and the Nuggets look hungry to repeat as champs, but so far, they’ve been given few big tests to pass. However, Denver will face a challenge on Wednesday night when it opposes the visiting Golden State Warriors.
The matchup features the two most recent title winners, and both look as if they could meet deep in the playoffs next spring. Golden State has an aging group that could have one or two more title runs in it, but through eight games, age is serving the Warriors well.
Stephen Curry, 35, has been Golden State’s leading scorer in every game, while Chris Paul, 38, tops the team with an average of 7.8 assists per contest.
Paul, acquired in the offseason, committed six turnovers through the season’s first four games but hasn’t given the ball away since. He scored a season-high 17 points in 120-109 a win at Detroit on Monday night as Golden State played on the road for the sixth time in the past seven games.
Golden State will complete a four-game road trip on Wednesday before returning to San Francisco for a six-game homestand. It will be a tall task trying to stop Nikola Jokic, who recorded his 108th career triple-double in a 134-116 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night.
Jokic’s big night (35 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists) helped Denver overcome a 20-point, first-half deficit despite not having guard Jamal Murray available. Murray is expected to miss multiple games with a right hamstring strain.
Murray’s absence has opened the door for others, and rookie Julian Strawther erupted for a career-high 21 points against the Pelicans. He put up 12 points in the fourth quarter in six minutes on the floor.
The job of bottling up Curry, who was selected Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday, likely will fall to Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Caldwell-Pope has been strong on defense through the first eight games, but since he won’t be playing all 48 minutes, Denver likely will do a lot of switching and have Aaron Gordon use his size to slow down Curry.
The task of stopping Jokic could be made tougher considering the Warriors lack size up front. Draymond Green, despite being just 6-foot-6, has played Jokic well in previous head-to-head meetings, though.
Denver swept the season series against the Warriors 3-0 in 2022-23.