The Denver Nuggets are a perennial force in the Western Conference, while the Golden State Warriors have made the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The two will meet in what should be a fast-paced first-round series. In the four times the teams played during the regular season, the Nuggets took the series, 3-1, one of which took a double-overtime to put away.
Both teams are going to be running up the scoreboard, as the Nuggets averaged 107.5 points per game against Golden State in the regular season, while the Warriors put up 100.8 per game against Denver. Stephen Curry, who just broke the single-season record for three-pointers made, shot 66.7 percent from the beyond the arc when playing the Nuggets. The Nuggets' home court advantage reigned supreme, though, as they won both games held in Denver.
Over at CBS Sports, three of their four experts picked the Nuggets to take the series. Ken Berger, however, predicted the Warriors would prevail in a six-game series. ESPN's 5-on-5 roundtable unanimously chose the Nuggets.
Sean Highkin of USA Today predicts the Nuggets will win in six, citing their well-documented home court advantage. Even with Danilo Gallinari sidelined for the season with an ACL tear, Highkin believes the mix of Andre Iguodala, Evan Fournier, Wilson Chandler and Corey Brewer will provide enough depth to throw at Klay Thompson and Curry.
Grantland's Brian Koremenos believes the key to the Nuggets' speed isn't Ty Lawson pushing the pace up court, but veteran Andre Miller's passing ability in transition. He also took a look at Golden State's use of "floppy action," and how guards Thompson and Curry have learned to read defenses better as the season has progressed.
The Nuggets look to be heavy favorites going into the series as they hold down their home court. It will be interesting to see the Nuggets push to the paint and fend off the perimeter assault from the Warriors.
Q&A with Jeff Morton of Denver Stiffs
What are you most concerned about with the matchup against the Warriors?
Quite frankly only two words ... Steph Curry. No other player on the Golden State Warriors has the ability to change a game like Curry does, and how the Nuggets guard him will be key to their ability to close out the series quickly.
How much confidence do you have in Wilson Chandler's ability to step up in place of Danilo Gallinari?
Gallo and Chandler bring different things to the game. With Gallo you get a playmaker and a shooter. With Chandler you get a scorer who also plays defense. So it's not necessarily stepping up that Wilson Chandler needs to do, he just needs to continue to be Wilson Chandler. If he does that, the Nuggets will go far in these playoffs.
Quite frankly, Ty Lawson looks pretty much like he did prior to his injury. Any worries about his explosiveness and speed have gone away. While the pain is undoubtedly still there, he hasn't shown it. Ty looks to be quite effective in the series against the Warriors.
Q&A from Nate Parham from Golden State Of Mind
What gives you confidence the Warriors can pull the upset over Denver?
Three-point shooting: the Warriors are good at it; the Nuggets are not so good at defending them at all times because they tend to gamble. If Curry and Thompson can get hot while Bogut helps compete on the boards better than the preview meetings, the Warriors can win this thing.
Andrew Bogut is the only Warriors starter with playoff experience. How much does that concern you?
Not much: two other key players have been to the playoffs before (Landry and Jack) and the way Curry is shooting I'm not convinced it matters when or where he's playing. What might concern me more is the coaching matchup: this is still Mark Jackson's first full season coaching and George Karl is a seasoned vet in these situations with a deep roster that he knows how to get the most out of.
Denver led the league with 106.1 points per game this season. Will the Warriors try to slow the Nuggets down, or can they out-score them?
Making the playoffs is a great accomplishment, but this is still the Golden State Warriors: they're going to win this thing with offense, even at the risk of letting the Nuggets find their rhythm in transition. The Warriors are very successful in transition with the ability to spot up Curry and Thompson for threes with Lee cutting to the basket and Barnes able to drive. That might be a tough way to beat the Nuggets, but they have to play to their strengths.