OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Denver’s Chauncey Billups(notes) chatted amicably with an antagonizing fan in the crowd, then casually strolled over to the home team’s bench and hugged Golden State trainer Tom Abdenour.
That’s how easy and relaxed the Nuggets were in their first game without coach George Karl since he revealed he has neck and throat cancer.
“As a player you always find confidence and that calmness when you look over there and your head coach is sitting on the bench, so it was a little different not having him out there,” Billups said. “But on the flip side (assistant coach Adrian Dantley) did a great job controlling the game and with his play-calling. But it was weird without (Karl).”
Karl, who disclosed he has cancer Feb. 16, stayed in Denver to receive treatment but is expected back Friday night at home against Detroit.
He had to like what he saw his team do against the Warriors.
The Nuggets set a season high with 16 3-pointers, completed a four-game sweep of Golden State for the first time since 2000-01 and remained unbeaten in 23 games when scoring 110 points or more.
Prior to the game Karl called Dantley and offered a few words.
“George told us just to focus on the game and not worry about him,” Dantley said. “The main thing with George is he wanted the win. We got that. It was weird but I’m glad this game is over.”
“I have no problems with this game,” Warriors coach Don Nelson said. “We competed for four quarters, gave them everything that we had and it wasn’t enough.”
Denver led comfortably most of the night, though the Nuggets got sloppy at times. Twice they allowed Golden State to whittle big leads down to single digits, but answered each time to turn the Warriors away while extending their lead to a full-game over Utah in the Northwest Division.
Denver built a 19-point lead midway through the second quarter, made nine 3-pointers in the first half and got another All-Star effort from Billups, who had 19 of points before intermission.
They also survived without leading rebounder Kenyon Martin(notes) in the second half. Martin limped off the court just before halftime after hitting knees with another. He was initially expected to return but spent the rest of the game on the bench.
Golden State has had injury issues of its own all season and it didn’t get any better against the Nuggets. C.J. Watson(notes) was held out of the game with flu-like symptoms and a team spokesman indicated Watson might also be suffering from appendicitis.
The Warriors made a brief run in the fourth quarter, pulling within 106-100 on Morrow’s four-point play with 8:13 remaining, but Billups made a short, off-balance flip-shot then later made a perfect alley-oop pass to Smith, and Anthony followed that up with an 18-foot jumper to make it 115-103.
NOTES: The Nuggets have scored at least 123 points in winning each of their last six games against the Warriors. … Curry scored 30 points or more for the fourth time this season. … Denver is only 13-10 this season against teams with sub-.500 records.