Sadly, after news broke on Sunday from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com that David Lee would be out for the season, this series and the Warriors' fate became bleak.
But don’t count them out yet. Even with Lee’s absence, they still have a chance.
Both are exciting and talented teams that like to run. They also play defense. Both are struggling with injuries, the Warriors with Lee and the always banged up Andrew Bogut. The Nuggets are without Danilo Gallinari, and Kenneth Faried has a bum ankle. However, Faried is expected to return.
From what remains, this will be an individually competitive matchup and here is a look.
Stephen Curry vs. Ty Lawson
How often do we see a matchup where both starting point guards are not only their teams’ leading assist men, but their leading scorer as well?
The 5’11” Lawson averaged 16.7 points per game on 46.1 percent shooting to go with 6.9 assists per game.
Curry averaged 22.9 points per game on 45.1 percent shooting per game with yep, 6.9 assists per game.
They are the respective leaders of their teams, and both are all-star caliber players who have yet to actually make an all-star team.
Both are equally dangerous in different ways. Lawson can get to the basket at will, and Curry is the best shooter in the NBA right now. His 45-45-90 percentages back that up.
Both will be the focal point for the rest of the series.
Edge: Stephen Curry. He is the (slightly) better player, but more importantly he is more vital to his team's success.
If the Warriors were without Curry, they would have no chance. If the Nuggets were without Lawson, they have some guy named Andre Miller to fill in.
Klay Thompson vs. Andre Iguodala
This is a fun matchup.
It features great offense versus great defense and good defense versus good offense.
Thompson is a great offensive player, but he isn’t just a shooter anymore. He really has stepped up his defensive game this season to become the Warriors' best perimeter defender.
The reason Lawson is able to score so much is because Iguodala is such a good facilitator of the offense. In addition to averaging 13.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals a game, Iguodala is third on the team in assists with 5.4 per game.
He really does everything well and is a lot to handle for any defender, not just Thompson.
Edge: Iguodala. He is an All-Star and is one of the top defenders in the league. Per every 100 possessions, the Nuggets give up 4.7 more points per game when he is not on the floor. He has the length and quickness to keep up with Thompson and Curry.
Plus he has the experience. This is his sixth playoff appearance, which is more than the Warriors starting five combined.
Harrison Barnes vs. Wilson Chandler
Since the injury to Gallinari, Chandler has averaged 18.9 points and 5.6 rebounds in 30.6 minutes per game.
While the Nuggets desperately miss Gallinari’s ability to stretch the defense, Chandler is yet another Denver Nugget who can attack the rim.
Barnes is having a solid rookie season. His 9.2 points and 4.1 rebounds a game while being the fourth or fifth option most nights is nothing to sneeze at. But he is not going to be able to rely solely on his athleticism to outplay Chandler. He may be in over his head here.
Edge: Chandler. Right now he is bigger, stronger and faster. Barnes will get there, and he has the shooting edge, but Chandler is playing better basketball right now.
Carl Landry vs. Kenneth Faried
This one actually hurts to type.
Landry is a solid player, but to say that Lee will be missed is a huge understatement. An All-Star and a nightly double-double machine cannot simply be replaced.
One of the Warriors’ biggest strengths was their ability to rebound. Losing their top rebounder is devastating.
Even worse, it takes Landry off the bench weakening their second unit. Expect his points per game, 10.8, to rise and hope that he is able to get to the line more often where he shoots 81.7. His ability to draw fouls could get Faried into trouble.
There are worse things in the world than having Landry in the starting lineup, but this is not a spot the Warriors want to be in.
Faried will be back after missing Game 1 due to a sprained ankle. So as the Warriors will be missing a double-double machine, the Nuggets will be gaining one.
Kenneth is one of the most energetic players in the league and is a ferocious player on the defensive end.
Edge: A not completely healthy Faried gets the edge over Landry. He epitomizes the advantage that the Nuggets have in this series with tough, physical play.
His presence will give Denver an extra boost and give the Nuggets more toughness in the paint to face a now depleted Warrior front line.
Andrew Bogut vs. Kostas Koufos
Bogut is not completely healthy either, but the Warriors are going to need a better effort than his last second blunder if they are going to win.
His defense is going to be essential to defend all the speed that Denver boosts. If he provides poor-help defense like the above clip, then the Warriors will be lucky to win one game.
He did register 14 rebounds in the first game, and with Lee now out, that is going to have to be the norm.
Koufos owns a soft touch around the basket and is the offensive complement to the defense that JaVale McGee brings off the bench. If the Nuggets are to get his season average of eight points a game, they should be just happy with that.
Edge: Bogut. He can be a game changer.
If the Warriors are going to win this series, he will have to play the best basketball that we have seen from him in a Warriors uniform.
With Lee now out, Bogut has got to step up on both ends of the floor. He can’t allow the Nuggets to get easy buckets near the rim.
Denver’s M.O. was that they had no true go-to-guy, but that they featured a deep roster. Well, if Miller is going to play like he did in Game 1, they may have solved the problem of whom they are going to turn to in the waning seconds.
Denver has the advantage especially now that Landry is a starter. McGee is erratic but is a dangerous shot-blocker. Corey Brewer showed that he is able to knock down the three-ball while playing tight defense. And the aforementioned Miller looks more like a 27-year-old then the 37-year-old he is.
Without Lee, the Warriors frontcourt backups are now Festus Ezeli, Andris Biedrins and Draymond Green.
Landry’s absence off the bench may prove to be more detrimental than Lee’s absence in the starting five. Carl is a capable replacement for Lee, but there is no replacement for Landry.
If Jarrett Jack can avoid shooting low percentages and get the ball in the right spot to the shooters, then the Warriors will be able to put up a fight. But as far as bench play goes, the edge goes to the Nuggets.
*All stats courtesy of NBA.com
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