So close, Andre Iguodala, yet so far away. (Getty Images)
Given its combination of pregame shenanigans, promises of forthcoming hell to pay and (oh-by-the-way) some legitimately competitive basketball capped by a late-game dagger from one of the NBA's all-time assassins, the front-end of Thursday night's TNT doubleheader was a pretty tough act to follow. Luckily, the back-end featured two of the league's 10 fastest-paced teams, 10 players scoring in double-figures, cool dunks, mammoth blocks, Anthony Randolph and 18 combined 3-pointers.
The Denver Nuggets just kind of wish it was 19. And if not for the cruel mistress of the clock, it might well have been.
But before we get to the absolute end, we need to go back to the start — not of Thursday night's game between the Nuggets and Golden State Warriors itself, but of the true late-stage weirdness, which came with about seven seconds left in the fourth quarter. For about 11 minutes and 53 seconds of that final frame, the Warriors had outplayed the Nuggets, turning an eight-point Denver lead at the end of three (which had been a 16-point cushion midway through the period) into a three-point Dubs advantage in the closing moments. In those closing moments, though, things went a big nutty. Behold:
The full list of weird things that happened there, if you're keeping score at home:
• A foul drawn by Iguodala on Warriors reserve point guard Jarrett Jack with 3.4 seconds left that was called in the act of shooting, which was maybe-kinda-sorta questionable because it clearly appeared to be a desperate attempt to get three free throws, which it did, after a review by the officials;
• Iguodala making his first two freebies to draw the Nuggets within one, but missing the third, setting off a scramble for a rebound that led to some question as to which team should get possession before Denver got the ball back with 2.1 seconds left;
• Denver point guard Andre Miller's terrible inbounds pass — described by Nuggets beat man Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post as "so dreadfully errant and underthrown, well, it brought back memories of Tim Tebow" — which appeared to bounce off his fellow Nuggets triggerman, a sprawling Ty Lawson, and go out of bounds with 0.3 seconds left, but that the officials instead called off Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry, giving the Nuggets another chance for the win;
• A second official review in the space of three seconds giving Denver two-tenths-of-a-tick more to play with on the ensuing inbounds pass;
• A much, much better cross-court inbounds pass from Miller finding Iguodala on the far left wing for a 3-point try that splashed through and appeared to give Denver the win ...
• Only to be waived off by officials after yet another replay review confirmed that the ball came off Iggy's hand just after the red lights signifying the expiration of the game clock lit up around the backboard. No basket, no 3-ball, no last-second heroics. Golden State wins, 106-105.
Whew. Get all that?
The win — Golden State's first over Denver in three tries this season, following a 107-101 double-overtime loss at Oracle Arena on Nov. 10 and a 102-91 defeat in Denver just last Friday — pushes the surprising, doing-it-with-defense Warriors to 9-6, a record that puts them atop the Pacific Division ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers. After the smoke cleared, Warriors coach Mark Jackson told Janie McCauley of The Associated Press that he knew Iggy's dagger was late, but given the late-game tumult, he wasn't so sure the officials would see it that way:
"I was very confident that it didn't count," Jackson said. "That being said, I didn't know what the results were going to be, the same way with some of the other calls. Mistakes are going to be made — by players, by coaches, by referees. At the end of the day I'm just thankful we're at a time where we review it. Great camera work. Shout out to the camera man."
For his part, Denver coach George Karl wasn't altogether thrilled with the way the clock was handled — "If I put a stopwatch on it, it seemed like the clock started early for me, but it's nothing to argue about," he said after the game — and Iguodala praised the defensive activity of second-year pro Klay Thompson for forcing him to "wait a split-second" before releasing. In a game where every tenth of a second counted, that slight hesitation could have cost Denver the game — not as much as allowing Golden State to shoot 51.2 percent from the field, whip the ball all over the floor all night (29 assists on 44 made field goals) and get power forward David Lee loose to the tune of 31 points on 13-for-15 shooting, nine rebounds and six assists, perhaps, but still quite a bit, all the same.
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, feel free to check out the late-game craziness elsewhere, thanks to NashtoKobe.