Gentlemen, start your engines.
The Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors open their first-round series at the Pepsi Center on Saturday, a series which should include an extremely fast pace and plenty of scoring. The Nuggets finished the season second in the NBA in pace, while the Warriors were not far behind in fourth. In terms of scoring, Denver finished first overall at 106.1 points per game, while Golden State was seventh at 101.2 points per game.
The Nuggets enter the postseason having won eight of their last nine games, as they have been able to overcome injuries to Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried. Gallinari is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, while Lawson is now healthy after battling a torn plantar fascia and Faried is attempting to recover from a sprained left ankle. Faried has missed the last week and was limited in practice on Friday, so his status is still in doubt for Game 1.
Whether Faried - the Nuggets' top rebounder - plays or not, Wilson Chandler will get the start at the 4. Chandler has been dynamite when starting this year, averaging 18.9 points and 5.6 rebounds on 52.5 percent shooting overall and 46.2 percent from three-point range in eight games. Chandler will have a tough matchup on the other end against David Lee, who led the NBA in double-doubles this season with 56.
It will be a tall order for the Warriors to go into the Pepsi Center and steal Game 1, as the Nuggets went a league-best 38-3 at home this season. But while Golden State did lose both games in Denver this season by double-digits, they do have the personnel to nab a road win if Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are able to get hot from deep.
Curry set an NBA record with 272 three-pointers this season, besting Ray Allen's mark with Boston from the 2005-06 season by three. And not only did Curry make a ton of threes, but his percentage was superb as well, as he finished third in the NBA at 45.3 percent. Thompson was no slouch himself, knocking down 211 three-pointers and hitting at a 40.1 percent clip on the year. He has been especially good in April, making 47.5 percent of his threes in the season's final month.
The Nuggets will have to be wary of Curry and Thompson's presence at all times, and they will throw an array of bodies at them thanks to their depth. Lawson will get the opening assignment on Curry, but look for players like Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer and others to take turns guarding the Warriors' star. Curry did shoot 16-of-25 from deep in the season series, although Denver won it 3-1.
Another matchup to watch will be that of the backup point guards. Jarrett Jack has had a marvelous season backing up Curry and is a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Golden State can be dangerous when they run three-guard sets with Jack, Curry and Thompson, especially when they're in the lineup with Lee and Andrew Bogut. That unit has posted an offensive rating of 115.0 in 204 minutes, according to NBA.com.
For Denver, Andre Miller keeps plugging along at age 37, providing a reliable hand behind Lawson. Miller played all 82 games this season, averaging 9.6 points and 5.9 assists. In 11 games as a starter when Lawson has been hurt, Miller averaged 12.9 points and 7.4 assists.
Game 1 for Warriors-Nuggets is set to tip-off at 5:30 E.T. at the Pepsi Center and will be televised on ESPN.