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Western Conference 1st Round: Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets
Before I go any further in breaking down this matchup I just want to say beforehand that this series will be the most exciting of the first round match-ups from a basketball standpoint. Sure, the Celtics-Knicks series will be a classic rivalry – tense and full of trash talk. And sure, James Harden is going to be playing against his former Big 3 teammates in Durant and Westbrook this round but no other series will be as fast paced and electrifying as this series right here. Warriors vs. Nuggets, the ultimate offensive matchup. Denver scores 106 points a game and Golden State scores 101. Denver scores 20 fast break points a game and Golden State scores 14. Golden State shoots 20 threes a game and Denver shoots 19. Both of these teams love to get up the floor and push the ball. Additionally, both of these teams are full of young developing talent – the types of guys that will be all-stars in a few years. Guys like Stephen Curry, Wilson Chandler, Harrison Barnes, Kenneth Faried, Klay Thompson just to name a few. So with that let’s begin analysing this series.
Why Denver Wins:
The Nuggets are simply a blur on the basketball court. As soon as the ball goes through their net, or when the ball is turned over, the Nuggets are racing up the court with only one thing on their mind: to score. That’s what they do best; score and score in transition. They’re 106 points a game is 1st in the league, and their 20 fast break points a game also leads the league. That’s a part of what is so hard to stop about the Nuggets. They never stop pushing forward. There is really no holding them back, and when you think they’ve stopped, George Karl will simply call a timeout and bring in the bench that leads the NBA in scoring with 41 a game. They’re very deep and that will obviously help them against the Warriors who also have many offensive weapons. The Denver Nuggets play fast, but they don’t play recklessly, there is a method to the madness. They honor every possession and even though it’s played at a rabid pace they only commit 15 turnovers per game. The Nuggets will score in transition but they will have to be ready to shoot the ball if they want to win this series. After their best shooter Danilo Gallinari went down it left them with a thin group of guys who can stretch the floor. Wilson Chandler shoots a respectable 41% from three but besides that, they lack shooters. Igoudala is inconsistent at best and other perimeter guys like Andre Miller and Corey Brewer are more concerned in distributing and getting to the basket. Everybody is going to have to step up and put on their best Stephen Curry impersonation this series for them to have a chance. Without their outside shot working, there is no pressure for the Warriors to run out at them and therefore, they’re lanes to the basket and they’re opportunities will shrink. The Nuggets will also have to embrace the big stage. The team is very young and inexperienced. Besides Andre Miller and Andre Igoudala nobody on their team has played more than 5 years in the league. They need to stay grounded and not get too excited or rattled by the big stage. They do however, have home court advantage and that is very helpful to them considering they basically don’t lose at home… ever. They’ve only lost 3 games at home on the season and the Denver crowd will be rowdier than ever as their journey to the Finals starts on Saturday.
Defensively, the Nuggets know what they need to do. They need to run everybody off the three point line and stay glued to Stephen Curry. If he gets open looks you know he’s adding three points to the scoreboard. Once he gets hot, he really gets hot, and that fuels the rest of his team. I think Igoudala should guard Curry throughout the series as it’ll be harder for Curry to get free open shots against the 6’6 frame of Igoudala. The Nuggets can leave Wilson Chandler on Barnes and Brewer or Lawson on Thompson if they want to. They match up very well against Golden State so wherever they go it doesn’t really matter as long as they keep Curry under control. They also have to worry about All-star David Lee down on the block. He is one of the more lethal low post players in the league and they’re going to need Kenneth Faried to be the manimal he has been all season and make it hard for him to operate. The thing with the Warriors is that you can’t double team anybody against them because there is always a shooter free and the golden rule is to not let any of their shooters free.
Why Golden State Wins:
Golden State has tons of momentum coming into this game and that all stems from their star player Stephen Curry. He just broke the record for most three pointers made in a season yesterday with his 270th three pointer. They’re hot and frankly, it doesn’t matter if they’re hot or not because what Golden State can do is really get hot whenever they want. They really put pressure on the perimeter defenders of the opposition to stay with them on the dribble, and coming off screens all over the court. I think Harrison Barnes will be an X-factor for the Warriors in this series. He’s had a mediocre rookie season but has excelled at using his athleticism to get to the basket and finishing. If he can have a big series then he can drive and kick out to Thompson and Curry. Golden State is also blessed with having Andrew Bogut back to protect the rim. He will cause a lot of problems for the Nuggets penetration. The Nuggets lead the league with 58 points in the paint per game. They love to get inside and score from under the basket so Andrew Bogut is going to have to get strong and be the defensive presence that Golden State predicted he’d be when they traded him for him from Milwaukee. If he can block shots and alter shots then the Nuggets will have less of an impact down there and will have to rely on their outside shot, which we’ve established is weak since the loss of Gallinari. Golden State has a certain camaraderie about them – a certain feeling that they’re all underdogs and it’s their job to win and prove people wrong. That is something that needs to shine more then ever this series. They’re very young and inexperienced but that’s what could help them. They need to play with everlasting energy. Denver loves to wear out teams within the first quarter with their run and gun style so the youngsters of Golden State need to match that intensity and show Denver that they aren’t the only ones who like to get up and down. Golden State also needs their bench to show up in this match-up. As stated before, Denver leads the league in bench scoring with 45 a game and could very easily take this series. They’re bench only scores 31 points a game, but it’s more than scoring that they need from their bench. They need toughness down low. Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli need to make it hard for Denver to score in the paint. That is their bread and butter, but if those guys can come off the bench and rebound the ball and limit multiple possessions than the Warriors could win this series.
Defensively, the Warriors need to get back in transition. They literally have about a second maybe even less before they have to run back and protect the basket from the onslaught of the Denver offense. They have to limit their fast-break game and limit their production down low. As I’ve said before Denver needs to score in the paint to win games. That means everybody from Harrison Barnes to Andris Biedrins need to be tough and defend the interior. They can’t afford to give the Nuggets easy baskets down low otherwise they will take this series.
Who Will Win?
I’m going with the Denver Nuggets. I think the key for them is to be effective from the perimeter. Scoring inside might be hard on Golden State but I think their pace will wear out the Warriors. I’m not confident that Bogut will stay healthy or be effective so I’m going with the Nuggets who are virtually unbeatable on their home floor.
Nuggets in 6.
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