The Golden State Warriors are poised to defeat the Denver Nuggets in five games and establish themselves as legitimate contenders for years to come.
Nascent superstar Stephen Curry has had just a little bit to do with that.
The three-point sharpshooter is averaging 27.3 points per game so far this postseason (all against the Nuggets). Curry's lowest point total came in Game 1 when he scored 19 points. He’s had at least 29 in the Warriors’ three wins since.
While Curry’s lights-out (and record-breaking, via ESPN) shooting has been the primary story for Golden State in 2012-2013, there are a few other less-hyped keys for Golden State to knock off Denver on Tuesday night.
Stephen Curry’s All-Around Game
Steph Curry’s three-point shooting has been otherworldly, but he’s taken other aspects of his game to a new level as well.
Curry’s shot chart from Game 4 (on NBA.com) shows a lot of shots from the outside, but also effectiveness when he drives the lane. He's made some tough shots in the paint.
When Curry penetrates and finishes, it really opens things up for the Warriors. It gives him more space from long range, and it enables him to dish the ball.
Curry is averaging 10.0 assists per game against the Nuggets this postseason, about three more than his 6.9 average during the regular season.
Game 4 featured some nice passes from Curry off of drives, leading to buckets for teammates or himself off of an extra pass. The Warriors are much better when Curry distributes the ball. Golden State was 11-4 in the regular season when he had at least 10 assists. The Warriors need him to do more than shoot in order to beat Denver tomorrow.
Attacking the Nuggets’ Deficient Defense
The Nuggets have played atrocious defense the last three games against the Warriors.
There's no need for Golden State to make any adjustments. NBC Sports said before Game 4 that they “simply need to keep doing what they’re doing until the Nuggets find a way to stop it.”
What they’re doing worked again.
Amazingly, Ty Lawson has one of the worst +/- ratings so far this postseason (via NBA.com). He is averaging 23.0 points per game, yet his +/- is a minus-13.5.
Lawson was a plus-3.9 in the regular season, but he has been unable to stop the Warriors’ talented guards.
Even Andre Iguodala, one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, was a minus-22 in the Nuggets’ most recent loss.
Denver coach George Karl knows the Nuggets need to tighten up on defense, but the Warriors are in control right now. Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson should stay aggressive and keep the Nuggets on their heels.
Carl Landry and Draymond Green
Andrew Bogut’s play this postseason has been a big boost to the Warriors, especially the 12 points he scored in Game 4.
However, the oft-injured Bogut is only playing 27.0 minutes per game so far in the playoffs. The former first overall pick played 32 games this season as he struggled to stay healthy, so Golden State coach Mark Jackson is monitoring his minutes closely.
Backup forwards Carl Landry and Draymond Green have produced quality minutes as role players. Landry has been an effective scorer (14.8 points per game so far this offseason) and Draymond Green has contributed on the boards against a talented rebounding team.
Though Bogut provided energy for the Warriors the last time out, Golden State really needs production out of Landry and Green. They combined for 30 points and seven rebounds in Game 4 and 24 points and 10 rebounds in Game 3.
Landry and Green’s play off the bench has been vital to the Warriors, and they need to contribute a similar amount in Game 5 for Golden State to win.
*All unattributed statistics provided by ESPN.com.