As just the second team to lose a home game so far in the playoffs, the Denver Nuggets find themselves in a situation where they've got to take a look at some new approaches to beating the Golden State Warriors.
Golden State took them down in a big way on Tuesday night, winning 131-117 in Denver, marking just the fourth home loss of the season for the Nuggets.
A lot went wrong for Denver, but the main thing to point to was a ridiculous 14-of-25 three-point shooting rate, giving the Warriors 42 points on just 25 attempts. That can't happen again.
The Nuggets were out-rebounded, played extremely poor defense and generally fell short on everything that makes them a tremendous fast-paced team.
They struggled to break the zone defense that Mark Jackson threw at them (which is wise on his part, considering Denver's dominance in the paint all year long), and they picked up just 17 points off turnovers in a game in which they scored nearly 120 points.
That's not the way they've played all season long, and it's what put them in a situation where they'll have to win back home-court advantage.
In preparation for their next game, a Friday night matchup in Oracle Arena, there are a few quick corrections Denver needs to make, and a few more that might be a bit less obvious.
The first step is to tell Corey Brewer to chill out. Give him the ball every once in a while when he's on the floor and let him shoot a bit, but taking 11 three-pointers is absolutely ridiculous. Granted, a handful of them were in the fourth quarter when the Nuggets were trying to erase a deficit, but he needs to throw a few of those out.
Brewer shot under 30 percent from the three-point line during the season. Something tells me that it doesn't make much sense for him to be taking more threes than Stephen Curry in a game.
Moving on from there, Denver needs to prepare for the hostility that they're going to be in for once they get to Oakland for the Warriors' first playoff series since 2007. It's hard to say whether or not the crowd will be quite as insane as it was in '07, but I would bet the over on the predicted decibel level for the game.
Breaking the Zone
What really gave the Nuggets fits was Golden State's reliance on zone defense, something that Danilo Gallinari would help with immensely.
Unfortunately, Danilo, his shooting and his ACL are all sidelined, so the Nuggets are going to have to get creative.
It wasn't the entire game, but Denver's inability to consistently score off turnovers, mixed with Golden State knowing exactly where to plant themselves in their defense set was rough on Denver as they tried to keep up.
Obviously there's going to be a lot of reliance upon Denver's slashers, which means help on the wing from Andre Iguodala and Wilson Chandler. Getting a big man to plant himself in the high post and either hit spotting shooters or cutters freed on a pick is a basic way to break a zone, but I think Denver needs a different approach.
If they're forced into a handful of half-court offensive sets by Golden State's zone defense, using Iguodala as the high-post ball-handler might be the most effective thing to do. Iggy is easily the team's best offensive decision-maker, plus he's a fine ball-handler and an even better passer.
Given Chandler and either Lawson or Evan Fournier (if he can make his shots) spotting up to make shots, Denver's cuts to the lane can come from corner-to-corner baseline action from their big men.
JaVale McGee seems incredibly adept lately at catching passes on his way to the rim, and he's been even better at finishing this season.
JaVale McGee, for all the wild shots he attempts, is finishing 71% of his cuts and 73% of his fast break attempts this year.— mySynergySports (@mySynergySports) April 24, 2013
Plus, if Kenneth Faried looks healthier than he did tonight, he could give them another guy to throw at the rim.
Denver didn't struggle against Golden State's zone for the entire game, but once they stopped making jumpers, the Warriors were able to pull away and hold the lead for good.
This should really be at the very top of the list of things the Nuggets needs to focus on before their Friday game in Oakland.
In their Game 2 loss, Denver let Golden State shoot 56 percent from the three-point line, which is way too high, in case you weren't sure.
Looking at Golden State's shooting chart, they didn't exactly struggle from any specific zone, but they did a ton of damage around the outside.
With David Lee out for the remainder of the series, the Warriors' offensive plan should be painfully obvious.
Aside from Carl Landry and a bit of work from Andrew Bogut from time-to-time, there won't be a ton of low-post action. Scoring near the rim will come in the form of fast-break work, isolation breakdowns and cuts from the perimeter.
Denver's main focus needs to be on shoring up the perimeter defense, keeping their men in front of them and avoiding over-rotation, which can be murder on a defense where there are multiple three-point shooters to worry about.
If the Nuggets can get back to contesting three-pointers and forcing more long-range jumpers rather than giving them the corner to get to the rim, Golden State's offense shouldn't click quite as soundly as it did on Tuesday.
Hey, they can't possibly score over 130 points in two consecutive playoff games, can they?
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