Juancho Hernangomez’s swooping right-handed swat was precisely the right stuff to help the Denver Nuggets stay unbeaten.
Turns out, this high-scoring Nuggets team can play a little defense, too.
Hernangomez on Sunday blocked a tying layup from behind just before the buzzer as the Nuggets held off the Golden State Warriors 100-98.
Trailing by 13 points in the fourth quarter, the Warriors rallied and had a chance to tie it in the closing seconds. Stephen Curry drove down the lane and passed to big man Damian Jones, who had his shot swatted away by Hernangomez.
“Huge,” said Gary Harris, who finished with 28 points.
The Nuggets improved to 3-0, despite missing 18 free throws, including six in the final quarter.
The 3-0 start is Denver’s best since the 2009-2010 squad led by Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups began 5-0.
The victory was driven by defense. Denver was sluggish on the offensive end in the second game of a back-to-back, but turned up the defensive intensity.
The Nuggets forced 18 turnovers.
Denver have held all three teams they have faced to fewer than 100 points.
“If we defend, we can pretty much outscore everyone in this league. Defense is really our main focus this year,” Nuggets forward Torrey Craig said.
That was music to coach Michael Malone’s ears.
“This is how I envision us playing. Some people may call it ugly, but a win is a win, especially against that team — the reigning champs,” Malone said. “If we continue to defend at the level we’re defending at and we get our offensive rhythm going, I think we could be a really good team.”
Nikola Jokic had 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assist in his bid for a triple-double on a second straight night.
No surprise, Curry hit three straight three-pointers in a 1 minute, 11 second span to lead the comeback. He finished with 30 points and had six three-pointers to move him past Paul Pierce for sixth place on the NBA career list.
Draymond Green had a chance to tie the game at 99-99 with 9.6 seconds remaining, but his second free throw rolled out.
Jamal Murray made one of two free throws at the other end to make it 100-98 and set the stage for Hernangomez, who was engulfed by teammates soon after his swat.
“That was a great play by, um, Juancho, right? It was a great block by him,” Kevin Durant said. “You’ve got to give him credit. Steph made a huge play, dropped it off. Can’t ask for anything better.”
Asked if he had thought about pulling up for a three-pointer, Curry responded: “No. I didn’t think about it this time. I was going downhill when I crossed court, and I saw the lane wide open and realized what the score was. I liked our chances from there, but it didn’t work out that way.”
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7
‘GREAT COMPETITOR’: Former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was tested by American teenager Coco Gauff, before the Spaniard advanced in three sets Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Thursday cruised into the quarter-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia by handing their Japanese opponents a rare “double bagel,” a feat matched by US Open losing finalist Victoria Azarenka in the women’s singles. Top seeds Hsieh and Strycova took just 49 minutes to see off the challenge of Japanese duo Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya 6-0, 6-0 on the clay courts at the Foro Italico in Rome. The Taiwanese-Czech duo saved both break points they faced and converted six of 14, winning 62 percent of their first