Golden State Warriors: 3 Keys to Shutting Down Denver Nuggets’ Bigs


Apr 30, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets small forward Kenneth Faried (35) reaches to keep the ball in bounds in the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game five of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

On a night when Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack all struggled offensively, it was the Denver Nuggets’ dominant frontcourt play, along with a stellar game from Andre Iguodala, not the Golden State Warriors’ offensive struggles, that propelled the Nuggets to victory.

Reminiscent of the performances continually surrendered by the Warriors in the pre-Andrew Bogut era, the Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos big rotation scored efficiently, protected the paint and controlled nearly every rebound.

Here are three keys to prevent a repeat performance in Game 6:

Decrease Transition Leak Outs:

To decrease the production of the Denver big men, the Warriors should limit wing players’ attempts at leaking out in transition. The Nuggets, Corey Brewer especially, are famous for sprinting up the court as or even before a shot is released.  The Warriors are generally not overly aggressive in transition, but would benefit if wing players, especially Harrison Barnes, are more consistently crashed the boards, limiting offensive rebounding opportunities by the Nuggets. Avoiding transition leak-outs would leave more players in position to defend a Denver big off a rebound without forcing the Warriors to surrender much offensively.

The Warriors benefit from transition opportunities, but not in the typical sense. Rarely does Golden State attack the rim on a non-turnover generated fast break.  nstead, they take advantage of mismatches and a retreating defense in “semi-transition,” seeking open three-pointers and exposed driving lanes. Often times in transitions opportunities, Thompson, Barnes, and other Warriors wings will run straight to the corner for the open three-pointer, not to the basket.

The Warriors exceeded defensive rebounding expectations through the first five games of the series, but would not want to repeat the Game 6 performance.

Apr 26, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Andre Iguodala (9) passes the ball around the reach of Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) in the third quarter during game three of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 110-108. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

More aggressive roll man help:

Throughout the regular season, the Warriors relied on wing defenders to help down on rolling big men as much as any team in the league. Likely looking to compensate for David Lee’s weak pick-and-roll defense, Warriors’ defenders consistently “bumped” big man, then scrambled to recover to shooters.

As a product of this help, Lee, a below-average defender, finished ninth in the league in pick-and-roll roll man defense, according to These commitments did not come without consequence, as the Warriors surrendered the most three-point attempts per game in the NBA, according to

Against the Denver Nuggets the reprimands for over-helping may not be as severe.  During the regular season, Denver, with an adjusted field goal percentage from beyond the arc of 51.1 percent, was the 24th best three-point shooting team in the league. By more aggressively helping onto rolling big men, the Warriors will be able to limit Denver’s bigs’ production, and allow the Warriors big men to hedge more aggressively on Ty Lawson.

Apr 26, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes (40) pumps his fist after the Warriors made a basket against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter during game three of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 110-108. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Draw Fouls at the Rim:

The Warriors rarely get to the rim, averaging only 22.1 attempts at the rim per game, 29th in the league, and draw fouls at a below average rate when they do.

According to Basketball-Reference, the Warriors average .201 free-throw attempts per field goal attempt, below the league average of .204. Curry, the Warriors primary ball handler, and Thompson, another high-usage player, both have incredibly low free throw rates.

However, drawing fouls on the Nuggets big men, especially the foul-prone McGee, is the easiest way to limit their productivity. Instead of focusing on finishing the shot, Curry, Thomson and the rest of the Warriors should emphasize drawing contact.