DENVER — Fresh legs beat fatigue.
Jordan Crawford scored a career-high 41 points and Harrison Barnes added 30 as a squad of Golden State backups beat the short-handed Denver Nuggets 116-112 Wednesday night.
"The guys did what they had to do to get the win, which is not easy on a night where some people say it's not worth it, you really don't have to play hard," Steve Blake said. "Guys played a lot of minutes that they usually don't get, so they got a little bit winded.
"It was nice for us to get the opportunity to play a lot of minutes and have fun. Even though it's the last game of the year, it's a good win for us."
Crawford beat his previous career high of 39 points set against Miami on March, 30, 2011, when he was with Washington. He surpassed it with a runner that put the Warriors ahead for good at 110-108.
The Nuggets thought they tied it up at 115 with seven seconds left when Draymond Green was whistled for goaltending on Randy Foye's 3-pointer, but the call was overturned upon review.
Foye finished with 32 points to lead Denver. Anthony Randolph added 19 points for the Nuggets, who are missing the playoff party for the first time since 2002-03, the year before Carmelo Anthony's arrival.
The Warriors are headed to their second straight Western Conference playoffs, again as the No. 6 seed and this time, they'll face the third-seeded Clippers starting Saturday in Los Angeles.
With Andrew Bogut out indefinitely and nothing to play for as far as seeding, the Warriors rested their regulars for the playoffs. Guard Klay Thompson was the only starter coach Mark Jackson put in his starting lineup 48 hours after Golden State secured its first 50-win season since 1993-94.
Thompson played just eight minutes but his was an efficient cameo with eight points. Green was pressed into duty in the fourth quarter when Hilton Armstrong fouled out.
Nuggets coach Brian Shaw had no problem with his counterpart going with a short bench by design, something Denver has had to do out of necessity for much of the season because of a rash of injuries to the likes of Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Hickson and Nate Robinson.
Before tip-off Shaw said, "It will be like playing ourselves."
Afterward, though, he said, "I thought our team was very, very tired, and I think it was apparent and we just couldn't generate any energy. And we got the lead right there at the end. ... But we just couldn't overcome the mistakes and the fatigue that we were feeling as a group."
It didn't help matters that their only true point guard, Aaron Brooks, was ejected with 6 minutes left in the third quarter for arguing with the officials after a technical foul.
The Warriors' reserves had fresh legs and continually beat the winded Nuggets downcourt. By halftime, Golden State was ahead 66-52 behind 22 points from Barnes and 19 from Crawford.
The Nuggets opened the fourth quarter on a 12-2 run to take the lead and give the home crowd something to cheer about, but once again they went home unhappy.
"I just told the guys that this is the last time that we want to end our season on the last game of the regular season," Shaw said after finishing his first season as a head coach 36-46. "And I encouraged them to watch a lot of playoff basketball so that they can see the things that we didn't do that allowed the team hat are going to continue on and play after today that are going to be the ones that are continuing to play."
NOTES: This marked the final game for Nuggets trainer Jim Gillen, who never missed a game or a practice in 23 seasons with the Nuggets. ... As expected, Lawson (sprained ankle) did not play in the season finale, meaning he missed the last seven games of the season. ... The visiting team won all four games in the season series.