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Can Warriors Match Nuggets’ Intensity?
Posted By Yannis Koutroupis On April 4, 2013 @ 12:33 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors, two of the Western Conference dark horses, are slated to potentially face each other in the three vs. six match up in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
This series is not locked in yet as both the Warriors and Nuggets could move in the standings a bit over the final seven games of the season. The sixth place Warriors only have a game on the seventh place Houston Rockets, while the third place Nuggets have the Los Angeles Clippers a game and a half behind them. Both teams could potentially move down a seed, but they cannot move up as the teams ahead of them have an insurmountable lead at this point of the season.
If this match-up does come to fruition, it would put two of the league’s highest scoring teams against each other and create a likely shootout. They faced off four times in the regular season and, in those four contests, a total of 833 points were scored.
The Nuggets won the regular season series 3-1, but three of the games were back in November. Both teams have changed a lot since then, which we take into account as we preview this potential first-round series.
The Case for Denver
In the preseason, George Karl voiced a lot of frustration with his team, expressing concern over their focus while wondering if they were ready for the tough early-season slate ahead of them. The Nuggets played 22 of their first 32 games on the road, and came out of that stretch just 17-15. Coach Karl’s concerns were legit, but as the schedule became more home heavy, his talented team started to figure it out.
The Nuggets have been one of the best teams in 2013, going 34-9, which includes a 15-game winning streak from Feb. 23-March 23. That winning streak went overlooked because it occurred at the same time the Miami HEAT’s 27-game winning streak was going on. However, while the general public may not have taken notice of the Nuggets, the rest of the Western Conference certainly did.
Known as a team without a true star player, the Nuggets’ strength lies in their depth and athleticism. They have one of the league’s deepest teams and they love to push the tempo, using that depth to their advantage.
The Nuggets don’t have the kind of big men who can create for themselves inside, but they get easy points in transition and their perimeter players are more than capable of breaking down the defense to set them up for easy looks around the rim.
Ty Lawson has really become the engine that makes this team roll, but he’s currently nursing a slight tear in his right plantar fascia that has kept him out for five of the last six games. The Nuggets are fortunate to have a very capable backup in Andre Miller who can keep the ship afloat until Lawson can return, but they need their starter back in the playoffs, especially in a potential series against the Warriors where scoring and tempo are going to be so vital.
The Warriors are very young on the perimeter, where the Nuggets are quite experienced and potent. That could end up being a big factor.
The Case for Golden State
Coming into this season, the Warriors were labeled as a potential breakout team in the Western Conference, but many thought their success hinged on the health of center Andrew Bogut. The Warriors acquired him last year knowing that he wouldn’t be able to play for them until this season. His injury woes have unfortunately carried over into this season as he’s only been able to play in 27 contests. Luckily, their success was not anywhere near as contingent on him as some thought.
The Warriors have been a mainstay in the Western Conference’s top eight without a healthy Bogut thanks to the emergence of Stephen Curry and David Lee as two of the best at their position. Lee was an All-Star, while Curry just missed earning the honor. His averages of 22 points, four rebounds and nearly seven assists a game make his status as one of the league’s best point guards undeniable, though.
Like the Nuggets, the Warriors have proven to be one of the deepest teams in the league, especially now that Bogut has played in 15 straight games. Klay Thompson has really come into his own this season, while Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry are once again two of the league’s top reserves.
The major question about the Warriors in the playoffs is how are they going to handle being in the postseason together for the first time. The Warriors as a franchise have not been in the playoffs since 2006-07. Curry, Lee, Thompson, and Harrison Barnes will all be making their postseason debuts. Even more importantly, Warriors head coach Mark Jackson will be coaching his first playoff game as well.
Meanwhile the Nuggets are returning basically everyone from last year’s squad that surprisingly took the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games. They’re familiar with playoff basketball and are hungry to advance past the first round, which they felt like they should have done last season.
This is a tossup if there ever was one. Both teams play a similar style, possessing a ton of firepower and athleticism.
Obviously, the Nuggets are going to be at a disadvantage if Lawson is not at full strength, which is looking like a serious possibility right now. They can win the series without him because this team is built around not being contingent on one single player, but their chances are much better with Lawson in the lineup. Starting the series off at home works in their favor as well.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Jackson handles his first postseason as a head coach. He may have the most difficult match up of them all going up against Karl, who has 23 years of experience on him and will be coaching his 180th playoff game.
The one certainty is that this series will be extremely entertaining to watch. These two teams are built to be in the playoffs for several years to come and this could be the first of many match-ups to come. The Nuggets deserve the slight edge going into this one, but it’s not by much, especially with the Lawson variable.
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