The Warriors slowed down the Nuggets transition game. They kept Denver leading scorer Ty Lawson in check. They held high-scoring Denver 11 points below its average.
But Golden State suffered a 97-95 loss to the host Nuggets on Saturday because it had no answer for Andre Miller.
The Nuggets veteran point guard converted the game-winning layup in the final seconds, negating the biggest shot of point guard Stephen Curry’s career, and breaking the Warriors hearts. Miller scored 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter to thwart Golden State’s upset bid.
It was dramatic end and a riveting start to a series most expect to be highly entertaining. The Warriors, who led by as much as nine, came from eight points down to nearly steal Game 1.
The Warriors may have lost more than the opener though. Forward David Lee was knocked out of the game with a probable hip flexor strain and didn’t return. His status for Game 2, on Tuesday in Denver, is uncertain.
Curry finished with 19 points and nine assists, but he needed 20 shots and he turned it over five times. Lee had just 10 points on 4 of 14 shooting with four turnovers before he went down.
But the Warriors had a shot to win because of a stellar game from center Andrew Bogut, who had nine points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and three assists. He anchored a defense that held the highest-scoring team in the regular season to 44.7 percent shooting. The Warriors also got 22 points from Klay Thompson to pick up the slack.
The game was tied at 81 before Golden State’s offense hit a cold spell. The Warriors went 3:22 without a point. During that stretch, Miller took over. He scored six of the Nuggets next eight points as Denver built an 89-81 lead.
The Warriors answered with a 3-pointer by Thompson. Then in a one-minute stretch, Bogut blocked two shots and converted two layups, the Warriors trailed 91-88 with just over two minutes left.
Miller answered with another jumper, but on the Warriors’ next possession rookie Draymond Green converted a putback. Golden State got a stop, and a pair of free throws by Jack with 1:14 left made it a 93-92.
The Warriors got the ball back after another stop. But Curry, swarmed by Nuggets defenders, was stripped by Lawson, who converted a fast-break layup on the other end.
But Curry redeemed himself. He capped a helter-skelter possession with a game-tying 3-pointer from the left corner with 14.5 seconds left. That turned out to be too much time.
With rookie forward Draymond Green, one of the Warriors best defenders on him, Miller went straight to the rack and converted the reverse layup with 1.5 seconds left.
The Warriors, who had no timeouts left, couldn’t get a desperation heave off.
The rest of the Nuggets struggled. Lawson finished with 12 points on 15 shots. Forward Wilson Chandler needed 16 shots to get 11 points. And Denver played Game 1 without starting forward Kenneth Faried (sprained ankle).