By Vytis Lasaitis
Monday evening the Golden State Warriors will attempt to take over the Pepsi Center for the first time since the 2013 NBA playoffs. The first meeting of the season between the Denver Nuggets and the Dubs is one of great anticipation and comes with a plethora of added incentives.
Both teams will be looking to turn their recent misfortunes around. The Nuggets were victimized by the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday and the defeat at Staples Center extended their losing streak to three in a row. The Warriors bounced back from a frustrating loss to the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs by unleashing their fury on the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.
Andre Iguodala will be making his return to Denver after deciding to jump ship last summer. After only one year with the team, he left the Nuggets with pretty much nothing to show for out of the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade and the reception is unlikely to be flattering.
Keys to the game
Off Eff: Warriors: 103.4 (11th) Nuggets: 103.0 (13th)
Def Eff: Warriors 99.3 (6th) Nuggets: 101.7 (12th)
Pace: Warriors: 99.2 (5th) Nuggets: 98.6 (7th)
Last season the Pepsi Center was one of the most dreaded destinations for any NBA team. It was where the Nuggets had won 21 straight games, held a 38-3 record and ran circles around their gassed opponents. So far this year Denver has already dropped five games at home and paying them a visit has not been that frightening of a trip.
The Warriors will need to get off to a quick start in this game and they should have no trouble doing so. Golden State’s starting unit has been one of the best and most efficient offensive lineups in the league so far, shooting 51.7% from the field and 47.4% from behind the three-point line. Meanwhile, the Nuggets’ starting lineup is notoriously bad defensively, although the five starters have done quite an admirable job defending the three-point line.
J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried are the biggest liabilities on defense, although Faried might miss the game as he rolled his ankle early against the Clippers. Rather than looking to score in the post the Warriors should run as much pick-and-roll action as possible to exploit the confused big men and to get their ball-handlers going.
Keeping up with the bench
As bad as the Nuggets’ starters are defensively, Timofey Mozgov and Darrell Arthur have formed one of the most dreaded defensive big-man duos in the league. Arthur’s practically faultless pick-and-roll coverage has been a huge contribution to Denver’s reserves this year. Brian Shaw has a tendency to bench Arthur a little too early, especially if he is not connecting on his mid-range jumper in pick-and-pops, so getting him out of rhythm offensively is generally helpful.
Nate Robinson has been a relatively consistent spark offensively for Denver this year. He has made big shots to put games away and has often helped his team cut into early deficits, so staying on him and chasing him off screens will be important.
Kenneth Faried (Questionable)
Danilo Gallinari (Out)
JaVale McGee (Out)
Jermaine O’Neal (Out)
Ognjen Kuzmic (Out)
Festus Ezeli (Out)