NBA Playoffs 2012: Complete Guide to Beating the Denver Nuggets
Playoff time has come again, NBA fans, and Denver has reached the postseason for the ninth straight year.
The Nuggets' playoff seeding is still up in the air, with a possibility of ending up sixth or seventh out west.
Likewise, playoff positioning is still being contended for on the top end of the standings and the men from the Mile High City could face San Antonio, Oklahoma City or either team from Los Angeles depending on how these last three days of the regular season shake out.
And the Nuggets are a quirky team. They've gone through an incredible amount of turnover the last year and have searched for their identity while fighting through a massive amount of injuries.
It seems they have found some chemistry as of late, going 8-2 over their last 10 games, most recently blowing out Orlando by 27 Sunday night.
Still, Denver has a multitude of ways that teams can attack them; this list examines those weaknesses.
Slow Them Down
The Nuggets are the No. 1 fast-breaking team in the NBA and when they get to pushing the pace, it usually means disaster for their opponents.
So, slowing Denver down is key to beating them.
It means point guards pressuring Ty Lawson on rebounds and inbound passes.
It also means a total team effort to run back on defense, which goes against older teams' chances.
Protect the Ball
Since Denver's so deft at running the floor, protecting the ball is key for opposing teams in the postseason.
That's because turning the ball over against Denver is a recipe for disaster.
The Nuggs routinely run and turnovers cut the length of the court down, which only helps them score.
Simply, Denver knows how to score off of turnovers and whoever plays them must protect the ball or risk losing early and often.
On the other hand, whoever plays the Nuggets can slow their running and scoring down by forcing turnovers.
At times, the Nuggs have been simply sloppy with the basketball, partly resulting from that lack of chemistry, and they can get into funks of turning the ball over too often.
Pressuring Lawson, Andre Miller and shooting guard Arron Afflalo is a good place to start and jumping into passing lanes will create turnovers, too.
Frustrate Ty Lawson
Lawson is the Nuggets' motor, he pushes them up the court, he handles the ball to facilitate teammates and is a threat to score shooting or driving the ball.
In fact, the 5'10" quick and agile point guard leads the team in scoring at 16.3 points per game, while leading Denver in assists (6.7), steals (1.3) and minutes played (35).
Lawson's shooting stroke has become sweeter as the season's progressed, but his lack of size makes him easier to close out on when he takes outside jumpers.
He's so important to the team that limiting his scoring opportunities and playing aggressive, active defense on Lawson will bode well for Denver's opponents.
Push the Pace
Yes, Denver's the No. 1 fast-breaking team and the No. 1 scoring team overall at 103.7 points per, but they're also deficient on the defensive end, allowing a third-worst 101.2 points per contest.
Teams that can not only keep up with the Nuggets' furious fast-breaking, but can also run themselves, will find effortless buckets in transition.
Although, to out-run Denver will take an equally deep and athletic opposition, which is few and far between.
Rattle the Rookie
Kenneth Faried has been in beast mode all season, running the floor with ease, skying high for alley-oops and outmuscling bigger players for rebounds.
The "Manimal" has been Denver's wild card; at times he's great—evidenced by his 27-point, 17-rebound performance a few weeks ago—and other times he's just a decent bench player.
But more often than not, Faried frustrates opposing players and coaches, doing the seemingly impossible on a nightly basis.
If he plays well, so does Denver, and other Western Conference teams should take notice.
The Nuggets can play physically—Faried especially—but they don't like to.
Other physical teams like Utah and San Antonio have given Denver fits this year with physical play forcing them into fouls and fouling up their play.
And one of Denver's glaring weaknesses is their rebounding, at 52.3 per, so if other teams body up the Nuggs, they can get second-chance points and limit theirs at the same time.
Plus, the Nuggets are one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the league; they don't need much provocation to lose their composure.
Beat Them at the Pepsi Center
Most years, the Nuggets take advantage of playing at altitude and enjoy one of the best home records in the Association.
That can't be said this season, as their 20-13 home record is the worst among West playoff teams.
Certainly, home-court advantage comes into play in a huge way in the postseason and if Denver loses a game at home early in a series, it would almost definitely signal another early exit for the team.
Close out on Shooters
Live by the three, die by the three.
This has been the baby blue and gold's motto at times during the season, as their streaky shooting has both won and lost contests.
When teams close out on Nuggets shooters on the perimeter, Denver misses more shots and loses more games.
Of course, just like pushing the pace, the key is all about effort and those squads willing to give more effort, dig in and leave it all on the court are the ones that win championships.
Contain Danilo Gallinari
While Lawson leads in scoring, Denver's most deadly scorer is Danilo Gallinari.
Gallo can dribble drive, seemingly always drawing fouls when he attacks the hoop with aggression. He can also pull up and knock down threes with ease. And Gallinari out-runs opponents, too, resulting in lay-ins on breaks.
Once he gets going on offense, his defensive intensity increases—a bad sign for the opposition.
Whichever team draws Denver must focus on containing Gallinari's potent scoring potential and there's no doubt he's looking to make a name for himself nationally starting now.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your Denver Nuggets Featured Columnist, Rich is the Denver Broncos and CSU Rams Examiner and Kurtzman also writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey and Mile High Hoops.
Follow Rich on twitter for breaking news, need-to-know retweets and interesting insight on the Rams and everything Colorado sports related.
Follow Rich on facebook to links to all his pieces and breaking news.