It’s official. The Golden State Warriors have clinched the sixth seed in the Western Conference and are slated to face the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, assuming the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
The Dubs will head into their season finale against the Denver Nuggets looking to build some momentum heading into the playoffs, though a few players are already riding hot streaks. Namely, Steph Curry has scored 30 or more points in three straight games while shooting 51.7 percent in the month of April.
Most promisingly, David Lee posted a huge performance on Monday night, converting on 12 of his 14 attempts from the field, his best offensive output since mid-March. He’ll have to come up big, especially in the absence of Andrew Bogut, who suffered a fractured rib on Sunday against Portland and is out indefinitely.
In Wednesday night’s matchup, the Dubs will have to get by a Denver Nuggets team that suffered a tough loss to the Clippers on Tuesday to end a three-game winning streak. The Nuggets don’t have anything to play for, as they’re eliminated from the playoffs, though the Warriors themselves are locked into their current playoff spot and have little reason to push hard for a victory either.
Denver Nuggets (36-45) Projected Lineup:
PG: Aaron Brooks
SG: Randy Foye
SF: Quincy Miller
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Bench Players: Evan Fournier, Wilson Chandler, Jan Vesely
Keys to a Warriors Victory:
Contain Timofey Mozgov
This one goes without saying. Mozgov, a backup for much of the season, exploded for 29 rebounds (along with 23 points) during the Nuggets’ win over the Dubs on Thursday, proving to be the key in Denver’s narrow victory.
This time around, the Warriors will have David Lee for some added size, but that doesn’t take Mozgov out of the equation. In his new starting role, the Russian big man has 50 rebounds over his last three games, and he’s scoring at a rate (16.7 PPG this month) that we’ve never seen from him before.
Fortunately, this is a game that mathematically doesn’t matter to the Warriors, though they’ll be without Andrew Bogut, who is out indefinitely with a fractured rib. Dubs fans, be prepared for another big rebounding night from Mozgov.
Prepare for the Playoffs
This isn’t exactly a key to victory–rather, it’s a plea to the coaching staff to be smart. With half the Warriors starting lineup seemingly made of glass and little to work with in the way of depth, the main priority on Wednesday night should be to walk away without anybody else getting injured. That means playing the starters sparingly and only enough to keep them in a rhythm heading into the playoffs. The last thing the Dubs need is for another starter to join Andrew Bogut on the list of players likely unavailable for at least the first round of the playoffs.
7:30 PST, April 16, 2014
Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
TV: CSN Bay Area
Radio: KNBR 680