The Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors will get the Western Conference side of the NBA playoffs underway on Saturday. While many people may overlook this series because it does not feature some of the more traditional teams or players in the NBA, it could turn out to be one of the best matchups in the first round.
Golden State and Denver are two of the more underappreciated teams in the NBA. Denver ranks first in the league in points per game, second in the league in rebounds per game and third in the league in assists per game.
On the other side, the Warriors rank seventh in the league in points per game and third in the league in rebounds per game.
The Warriors and Nuggets had some very close regular-season battles including a double-overtime game, and this playoff series should be no different.
Here is a complete breakdown of the first-round matchup between the Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors.
What You Need to Know
Seeds: Golden State Warriors No. 6; Denver Nuggets No. 3
Records: Golden State Warriors 47-35; Denver Nuggets 57-25
Season series: Denver Nuggets won 3-1
Playoff schedule: Game 1 Saturday, April 20, 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), Game 2 Tuesday, April 23, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT), Game 3 Friday, April 26, 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2), Game 4 Sunday, April 28 TBD, Game 5 Tuesday, April 30 TBD, Game 6 Thursday, May 2 TBD, Game 7 Saturday, May 4 TBD
Biggest Key for the Nuggets: Home-Court Advantage
The Denver Nuggets posted an unbelievable 38-3 record at home this season and are currently on a 23-game winning streak at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Their 38 wins was the best in the NBA at home this season, even beating out the Miami Heat, who won 37 games at home.
The biggest thing that the Nuggets have going for them at home right now is confidence and a belief that they will win at home. They also have the altitude to help them as well. Many people always talk about the altitude in Colorado and how it helps the Denver Broncos in the NFL, but it also certainly helps the Nuggets as well.
Denver already has home-court advantage in the series, but with the way they have been playing at home this season as well, it will be extremely difficult for Golden State to win this series. The Warriors will certainly need to try to take one of the first two games of the series in Denver, because they do not want the Nuggets to continue building their confidence at home.
Biggest Key For The Warriors: Klay Thompson
Golden State guard Klay Thompson was extremely hit-or-miss all season long. Throughout much of the year, Thompson was an assassin from the three-point line and therefore was a lethal scorer. He had 30 games on the season where he scored at least 20 points.
At other times this year, Thompson was the complete opposite of that lethal three-point assassin. He had 16 games on the year in which he did not even reach 10 points.
The Warriors were the top three-point shooting team this season, and Thompson has to be a lethal three-point shooter for the Warriors to have a chance to beat the Nuggets. The games where he needs to have the biggest impact will be road games, where the Nuggets have a huge advantage on the Warriors. If Thompson can get hot on the road a few times, then maybe the Warriors could steal a road game, and maybe even steal the series.
Key Matchup: Stephen Curry versus Ty Lawson
There will be great players all over the court in this series, but the best battle will be at the point guard position.
Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson each run the show on offense for their respective teams. Curry uses his three-point shooting to lead the way for the Warriors, while Lawson uses his dribble penetration and speed to breakdown opposing defenses for the Nuggets.
With two uptempo point guards, two high-scoring offenses and two of the lower-ranked defenses in the league, controlling the uptempo style of play will be very important in this series. The winner of the Curry-Lawson battle will ultimately be the team that is able to control the tempo of the game.
The Golden State Warriors' core players are really starting to develop into a force that could be tough to deal with in the future. Right now it is the Nuggets' time though.
Denver is playing with a lot of confidence at home, and it will just be too much for the Warriors to go in to Denver and win on the road. Golden State will keep the games competitive and the series will be close, but frequently in the fourth quarter Denver will show that they are the better team.
Nuggets In Six Games