Denver Nuggets vs. Golden State Warriors: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
For fans hoping to catch the prototypical track meet like Warriors-Nuggets matchups of years past, it'd be wise to temper those offensive expectations. Neither team is running and gunning like their recent former selves (Denver ranks ninth in scoring at 99.4 points per game, while Golden State ranks 16th at 98.0).
But that doesn't mean that the Nuggets' trip to Oracle Arena will lack for excitement. This matchup of two Western Conference playoff hopefuls will feature some of the game's premier athletes, shooters and (gasp!) defenders.
Time: Thursday, November 29th, 10:30 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Nuggets -1.5 (according to Vegas Insider Consensus)
Wilson Chandler (hip), out
Julyan Stone (hip), out
Richard Jefferson (calf), questionable
Brandon Rush (knee), out
Andrew Bogut (ankle), out
Ty Lawson, PG, Nuggets vs. Stephen Curry, PG, Warriors
Two of the better members of the famed 2009 point guard class will go to battle leading their respective clubs.
For the visitors, Lawson brings an explosiveness that's nearly unmatched in the NBA. But after 15 games, the speedy point guard has struggled converting his offensive chances.
His scoring is down (13.3 points per game) as is his field-goal percentage (41.2). And while he's increased his assist numbers (7.5), he's also seen a rise in his turnovers (3.1).
As for Curry, his mere presence on the floor has been a welcome sight given his recent injury struggles with a twice-surgically-repaired ankle.
He hasn't yet shown the same shooting efficiency that he's more than capable of (41.2 field-goal percentage in 2012-13, 46.8 for his career). But he has paced the team's offense in scoring (18.4) and assists (5.5).
Through the teams' first two meetings of the season (both Denver wins), the point guards have split their matchups. Curry outscored Lawson 19-9 in the first game, while Lawson took the second game 18-6.
Lawson may not enjoy the same kind of long-term projections as Curry, but his quickness has frustrated the NBA legacy into foul problems in each game (nine fouls combined). Curry wasn't the fleetest of foot before the surgeries, and he'll once again put that ankle to the test in trying to stay in front of Lawson.
Danilo Gallinari, SF, Nuggets
The fifth-year sharpshooter may be more than just a key to a Nuggets victory in this game. He may be the biggest factor in determining how far this franchise can go.
At 6'10", 225 lbs., Gallinari can find shots wherever and whenever he wants. Outside of seldom-used rookie Evan Fournier, Gallo is the only Nuggets player who could ever be called a pure shooter.
When he shoots the ball with confidence, it opens the floor for Lawson and Andre Iguodala to attack the rim—if he's making his shots, that is. He's shooting just 23.4 percent from deep this season and the Nuggets' offense has suffered as a result.
Harrison Barnes, SF, Warriors
Coming out of high school, Barnes seemed destined for basketball greatness. His combination of size (6'8", 210 lbs.), skill and athleticism led to ESPN comparing his North Carolina debut with that of Michael Jordan.
But following two good, but not great, seasons at Chapel Hill, Barnes had slipped behind the likes of Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson and Bradley Beal.
Upon finding his way to the league, though, Barnes has again displayed some of those same traits that led to those impossible-to-meet expectations. With Brandon Rush likely out for the season, Barnes has displayed some of the most efficient offense (10.7 points, 47.5 field-goal percentage) and some of the best defense of this deep rookie class.
Kenneth Faried, PF, Nuggets
The self-dubbed Manimal, Faried has continued his impressive rebounding ways in his sophomore season. He's second in the league in offensive rebounding (5.0 per game) and fifth in total boards (11.3).
He's also added to his offensive arsenal, finding production outside of his typical putbacks. He's converted 54 percent of his attempts from inside the paint but outside of the restricted area and 38 percent of his attempts from outside the paint.
With Bogut sidelined indefinitely, Faried has the kind of athleticism to frustrate an undersized Warriors frontcourt. His defensive energy is a large part of why Warriors forward David Lee converted just 16 of his 38 field-goal attempts in the team's first two meetings.
Carl Landry, PF, Warriors
A closer by default, Landry is inching his way up the rankings of the best offseason acquisitions in the NBA. His 20.1 points per 36 minutes leads all Warriors regulars, as does his 59.5 field-goal percentage.
He is so skilled on the offensive end that coach Mark Jackson has been able to employ the largely defenseless combo of Landry and Lee for long stretches. And his activity around the basket (which includes perhaps the most effective pump fake in the league) has led to a team-high 5.2 free-throw attempts per game. That might not sound like a big number of charity stripe visits, but for a team that struggles to get to the line as badly as the Warriors do, they've been a welcome sight.
The Warriors offense is predicated on sharing the basketball since this team is limited with effective isolation players. But Landry is one of the few guys who can give Curry and Jackson a break by creating something out of nothing.
Warriors 96, Nuggets 89
The first times these teams met up in Oakland this season, the Warriors squandered a late lead in a double-overtime 107-101 loss.
If Golden State can keep Barnes and Curry out of foul trouble, they could finally form that vaunted trio of shooters with a confident Klay Thompson in the mix. Festus Ezeli has filled the paint in Bogut's absence, and Draymond Green may keep Jefferson on the bench when he gets healthy.
The key to this game will be which advantage reigns supreme: the Warriors' shooters or the Nuggets' frontcourt. Vegas likes the Nuggets bigs, but I'll go with the Warriors wings.
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