No one shoots the three-ball better than Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, but that’s pretty much the only advantage they have going for them against the highly favored Denver Nuggets in a first round NBA playoffs series that threatens to set a few scoring record and provide the highest entertainment value during the first couple of weeks.
And truly, it’s hard to see what the Warriors have to offer in terms of outplaying the Nuggets beyond shooting at least as good as they did in the regular season. The Warriors led the NBA with 40.3% from beyond the arc, led by Stephen Curry, averaging 22.9 points per game while shooting 45.3% from beyond the arc and setting a new NBA record of 272 three point field goals made. Klay Thompson (6.4 attempts per game) is also quite deadly from the outside with 40.1% this season.
And that’s where their advantages end. Even if the Nuggets are playing without Danilo Gallinari, their ability to both run the ball and play a bit more “playoffy” basketball should give them a distinct advantage, as we see by their 3-1 record in the season series.
Without Gallinari, you would expect the scoring load to fall on the shoulders of Ty Lawson, but he’s not 100%, and his 16.3 points per game since coming off his injury don’t really tell the tale of him not fully being back to himself. Wilson Chandler (17.4 ppg in April), Corey Brewer (15.1 ppg in April) and Andre Iguodala, who does more than just one thing for the Nuggets, including being their most important player on defense, are going to be much more involved in the scoring process than before Galo went down.
The big advantage, however, besides the never-ending depth at the wings, is the Nuggets’ ability to attack the glass and score in the paint. They set a new record with 58 points in the paint per game this season. They scored at least that number in all three wins over the Warriors, settling for “only” 44 in their only loss to Golden State. Kenneth Faried being 100%, along with JaVale McGee and Kostas Koufos, gives them a huge edge in an attempt to get easy points through second-chance shots.
Predictions – The Warriors are a better defensive team than their stereotypical teams of the past, but the Nuggets are going to come out running and coming hard at them. While Andre Bogut is on the floor, the Warriors are in good shape and chance to defend the paint. Without him, it’s going to be very hard for the Warriors bench to contend with the opposite side, which is deeper and better.