Game-by-Game Predictions for Denver Nuggets' Series with Golden State Warriors
With the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors kicking off the Western Conference portion of the playoffs, there are a ton of possibilities moving forward, with each game having the ability to take on a tiny story of its own.
Golden State will be forced to enter one of the toughest arenas in the NBA, as the Nuggets are 38-3 in the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver.
There are a handful of matchups that we'll have to keep an eye on along the way, as Ty Lawson and Steph Curry go head-to-head, Kenneth Faried gets the job of chasing around David Lee, Andre Iguodala holds down the perimeter, and Andrew Bogut finds out if he can keep up with a rowdy JaVale McGee off the bench.
Denver played well in a seven-game series against the Los Angeles Lakers in last year's playoffs, as Los Angeles found it difficult to keep up with Denver's fast-paced antics.
Fast-forward a year and they're the best dark-horse candidate the league has capable of squeezing its way into the playoffs, with the Warriors being merely a stepping stone on their way to bigger and better things.
Meanwhile, this is the first year that the Warriors have made the playoffs since 2007, and the first bit of playoff experience for most of the team. They've played a combined 146 playoff games between them, 94 of which are under Richard Jefferson's belt.
Can the Warriors slow the Nuggets down and make this a series, or are the Nuggets on track to run over the challengers and never look back?
Let's go ahead and take a look at how things could unfold over the course of the next week or so.
Game 1: Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets, April 20
The most important thing to point to going into this series is that Denver is a whopping 38-3 when playing at home. Needless to say, that's the best home-court mark in the NBA by a game over the Miami Heat, and the best in the Western Conference by three games over the San Antonio Spurs.
Denver's game is predicated on getting out and running, getting the ball into the post, and shooting three-pointers when the opportunity arises. Scariest about the Nuggets is that they're even faster and more efficient at home.
The Nuggets average 108.4 points per game at home compared to 103.9 on the road, while giving up just 97.7 at home, compared to 104.4 on the road.
When the crowd gets roaring and the Nuggets go on a run, it can seem like an eternity for the opposition, even if it does just go on for minutes at a time.
Golden State beat Denver just once in their season series, but that one was in the Bay Area. There's no reason to think that Denver's grip on the game at home will slip in the playoffs. If anything, it should tighten.
This will be a chance for the Warriors to really figure out what they're in for, determine what, if any, weak point they can attack in Denver's lineup, and just hope that there's something they can do to keep the game close.
Prediction: Nuggets 115, Warriors 103.
Game 2: Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets, April 23
With their struggles on the road are well-documented (they're just 19-22 away from home), Golden State is going to have troubles finding much of a footing when the Nuggets welcome them to Denver and start early with the up-tempo stuff.
What will be most interesting to see is how the Warriors cope with Wilson Chandler. Will Harrison Barnes be able to stay in front of him while crowding him enough to keep him from getting off an open jumper?
This seems like a matchup that the Nuggets are going to be able to exploit at least once in the series, so don't be surprised if the Nuggets look to go after it early on.
Golden State should have somewhat adjusted to the higher altitude at this point, and they know what to expect in terms of a constant offensive attack from the Nuggets.
After a game of getting run out of the building, the crowd should be jazzed early on, so Golden State needs to expect an early run feeding off the buzz of the crowd.
However, if they can weather the early storm and quiet the crowd down a bit, don't be shocked if the second game turns into a very close competition.
Prediction: Nuggets 101, Warriors 99
Game 3: Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors, April 26
As good as the Nuggets are at home, they struggle to find the same energy on the road.
Denver shoots an impressive 47 percent on the road, but that's compared to 48.65 percent at home. Factor in a four-percent drop in three-point shooting, a full free throw fewer per game and a distinct drop-off in turnovers forced and blocked shots, and the Nuggets are far more beatable when they have to travel.
It almost seems as if they're not quite able to match the home energy once they get outside of Denver and into a new city.
On the other side, Golden State's defense feeds off the crowd in a similar way that Denver's offense does.
While the Warriors average nearly the same number of points when they're at home compared to when they're on the road, they allow 5.3 fewer points per game when at home.
If Golden State wants to have any chance in this series, they have to take advantage of their home games early and often, something they should be able to do in their first home playoff game since the raucous days of 2007.
Prediction: Warriors 104, Nuggets 97
Game 4: Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors, April 28
While the Nuggets are a better team at home than on the road, it's important to remember that we should place more weight on what they've done in the past few months, rather than giving merit to the entire season equally.
Denver is 8-3 on the road since February 23, when they decided to reel off a 22-game winning streak. Those eight road wins include victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls, both formidable home teams.
Not only that, but the Nuggets beat the Warriors while in Oakland back in November when the Nuggets were struggling to get anything going outside of Denver.
Taking a look at the Warriors, they're 28-13 overall at home, and just 10-6 since February 23, so they are extremely beatable in Oracle Arena.
Golden State will have to avoid settling into a scenario where they're comfortable with a lead, especially at home, giving Denver a chance to sprint their way back into a game.
Denver is capable of scoring points in bunches at a time, and they should be even more dangerous in the playoffs.
With the extremely hot play of the Nuggets as of late, it's hard to imagine the Warriors handling them in two straight games, regardless of where they're played.
Prediction: Nuggets 100, Warriors 93
Game 5: Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets, April 30
Two of Stephen Curry's highest-scoring games this year have been on the road. If I were to take a gamble, I would say that he has another huge night on the road at some point in this series.
Given the fact that he is a first-time playoff competitor, it's hard to imagine him playing out of his mind for the entire series, but finding a game in which he can blow up and rain in threes on an opponent should happen at least once.
Curry scored 54 against the New York Knicks back in February and 47 on the Los Angeles Lakers just a few weeks back, two of the six-highest scoring games of any player this season. The only problem is that the Warriors lost both of those games.
It's going to take a few games for Curry to get into his groove for the playoffs, as he's expected to lead these Warriors into the future starting now, but once he does he should be able drop in some excellent play along the way.
Even still, it seems as if the Nuggets' depth is going to be too much for the Warriors to contend with, even with Jarrett Jack entering and exiting God Mode at various points throughout this series.
Denver will have a hard go about it, but they should be able to wrap this one up relatively early.
Prediction: Denver 104, Golden State 99