The Golden State Warriors are in the Mile-High City tonight to take on the Denver Nuggets in a contest pitting a pair of mid-tier playoff contenders out west.
No preview worth it salt can possibly fail to mention Denver’s widely known home-court dominance, so consider that requirement fulfilled here. The Nuggets are an NBA-best 13-2 at home, with the only defeats coming at the hands of the Miami Heat on Nov. 15 and (surprisingly) the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 3. Without question, George Karl’s squad loves its home floor, and the Warriors will have their work cut out for them in this one.
From a wider statistical perspective, the Nuggets and Warriors are stunningly similar; their NBA rankings in pace, offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency and rebound rate are all within percentage points of one another. Only Denver’s league-best dominance on the offensive glass (ORR of 32.5) and the Dubs’ advantage in true-shooting percentage stand out as significant contrasts between the two clubs (via ESPN.com).
That’s a paper comparison, though. These two teams rely on some pretty disparate styles to get the job done on the floor, and we’ll have to look at those in preparation for tonight’s tilt. Here are a couple of stylistic keys of note:
Ty Lawson is having a down shooting year, but he still does the one thing that makes Denver’s offense go: He penetrates.
The Nuggets’ point guard is lightning quick in the halfcourt, and no single defender can consistently stay in front of him. That’s why the Warriors will need a total team effort to force Lawson to his left and, most importantly, toward the baseline on pick-and-rolls. When he makes it into the middle, all hell breaks loose—three-point shooters get open looks and Denver’s bigs shed their men and get into position for offensive rebounds as defenders scramble to stop Lawson’s progress in the lane.
Keeping ball-handlers out of the paint is always a key, but with Lawson, it’s the key.
Cage the Manimal
As we mentioned earlier, the Nuggets are the NBA’s best offensive rebounding club. And a lot of that has to do with Kenneth Faried.
The Manimal doesn’t ever appear to tire, and at home, when the opposition is sucking wind in the thin air of Denver, his effort stands out even more starkly.
The Dubs have had major issues against teams with bigger front lines of late, and when Faried is on the floor with any combination that involves JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos or even Timofey Mozgov, Golden State will be at a massive disadvantage on the glass. Mark Jackson will either have to allot more minutes to his conventional centers or cross his fingers and hope that a David Lee-Carl Landry front line can score enough to offset the extra chances their rebounding ineptitude will yield the Nuggets.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (23-12) vs. Denver Nuggets (22-16)
WHERE: The Pepsi Center
WHEN: Sunday, 5:00 p.m. CSN Bay Area
AT STAKE: A win here and a loss by the Memphis Grizzlies to the L.A. Clippers on Monday will vault the Warriors into a tie for fourth place in the West.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Stephen Curry, who scored just six points in his last visit to Denver and made just 7-of-22 shots against the Blazers on Friday. He’ll need to get it going for the Warriors to have a chance.
PREDICTION: Denver’s size and tenacity on the glass is too much for the undersized Warriors. Nuggets win 107-98.