The Warriors will need an epic Stephen Curry performance throughout to win this series.
When you're going to take some time out of your everyday life and complain about what another guy has to say about your favorite basketball team, I'd argue that it's been a pretty good season.
And for the Golden State Warriors, a 47-35 finish is about as close to a best-case scenario as it can get. Not even Andris Biedrins being Andris Biedrins, Andrew Bogut's ankle being Andrew Bogut's ankle or regression from a scorching start could stop this team from clinching the sixth seed and a first-round matchup with the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets come into the series with worries of their own. The Danilo Gallinari injury is a small concern, and Kenneth Faried's day-to-day prognosis affects the team's rebounding.
However, this hasn't stopped the "experts" in the sporting world from pronouncing the Denver Nuggets as heavy favorites. They exercised reasons like the home-court advantage, depth, coaching and athleticism as reasons this probably won't go past six games.
Zach Lowe of Grantland predicted that the Nuggets would win in five mainly because of the Nuggets advantage in the paint. With Bogut hobbled, Lee and Carl Landry very mediocre on defense, this is an obvious issue that is less fixable in the thin air.
They cite defensive issues with the injuries and the torrid shooting of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but the difference in style, not pace, will ultimately do the Warriors in. Depth is a huge focal point because the Nuggets' Evan Fournier and WIlson Chandler are capable wing scorers and defenders despite Gallo's injury.
Yahoo Sports' Ball Don't Lie panel of experts also unanimously agreed than the paint scoring and Warriors' inability to keep up will doom them in six or seven games.
With all that being said, there is much to chew on with so many matchups. I both agree and disagree with the experts' opinions on two main aspects on the game.
While it may seem like a surprise, with both teams playing the same pace (both top six in the NBA, according to Hoopdata), they actually benefit from wholly different styles. The Nuggets shoot horribly from the outside, so the wing-heavy team George Karl employs never ceases going into the paint, shooting over 55 percent of their shots at the rim.
It's doubtful that a Lee-Landry pairing will do much to stop the train that is Ty Lawson or Kenneth Faried motoring their way into the paint. And that's where everyone can agree on the prediction. Until we see a healthy Bogut—something we haven't seen since his Milwaukee days—it's a near certainty that the paint will belong to the Nuggets on offense.
And it's not like they have many other options, considering their "best" shooter, Gallo, is out for the season.
They lose a nice offensive option that is the catalyst for so many plays without Gallo. It is often the case that he runs the pick-and-roll because of his ability to drive and create. Wilson Chandler, while a good shooter, doesn't present the same array of skills on offense and Iguodala has the tendency to play a bit passive (Warriors fans can attest to this with Harrison Barnes).
A healthy Lawson should pick apart the Warriors defense, healthy Bogut or not. Even though they've improved the past couple weeks, the pick-and-roll defense is lacking when Lee and Bogut are unable to cover due to their lack of foot speed.
Demarcus Cousins—in the video shown above—scoring so easily isn't as concerning as Bogut unable or unwillingly to come out to hedge and recover. He simply doesn't have the foot speed at this point and Curry isn't the defender to mask those mistakes.
The main point I have an issue in these prognostications is the defense of the Nuggets simply running the Warriors out of the gym. We automatically assume that the Warriors won't be able to keep up because they don't shoot the vast majority of their shots in the paint and the lack of depth an issue.
However, two key factors are how Bogut and Lee play on the offensive end, and the statistics and matchups back up the notion that one of them will prosper.
While Bogut doesn't look as spry as he has in the past, his presence on offense should be noted. He is an excellent passer even without drawing double-teams. Whereas other big men look to pass out of double-teams as a necessity, Bogut's passing comes as a necessity due to his lack of post moves at this point.
Just last game he found Barnes on a behind-the-back cut from near the free-throw line.
As for David Lee, he should have his way with either Chandler or Faried. Both have the length to bother him and play solid defense against other power forwards, thus allowing Karl to employ starting lineups like the Lawson-Iggy-Chandler-Fournier-Koufos one for Game 1.
Will the Warriors win the series?
Despite their length, Lee's strength is his offensive game and he has to take his game to the proverbial next level. A weakness of the Nuggets is their inability to get defensive rebounds, according to NBA.com, they are fourth-worst in rebounding percentage.
This means that Lee and even Landry should have a field day off Klay Thompson and Curry misses. If you think the Nuggets will own the glass on defense just because they do so on offense, you are in for a surprise.
The Warriors may not be able to keep up with the Nuggets' pace but they have an advantage on offense by controlling the paint and slowing the game down to their level.
And that is why I expect this series to go at least six games. Whether it does or not, it'll be the most entertaining series in the first round and we will finally get to witness a burgeoning superstar in Stephen Curry do his thing on the biggest stage of his career.
Statistical support for this piece provided by NBA.com, unless stated otherwise.