Re-read that headline: "Nuggets try to avoid Warriors' sweep." That's right, fellow Stiffs, our Nuggets have not been able to beat the 22-33 Golden State Warriors this season.
Denver: 30-26 (16-12 at home)
Streak: Lost 1
Golden State: 22-33 (10-17 on the road)
Streak: Won 1
Denver: Danilo Gallinari (fractured left thumb) is out. Wilson Chandler (a groin) is day-to-day.
Golden State: Andrew Bogut (fractured left ankle) and Stephen Curry (right ankle sprain) are both out.
Season Series: 2-0 Warriors
Opposition's Take: Golden State of Mind
The Denver Nuggets' maddeningly inconsistent regular season continues on Monday night when the Golden State Warriors come to Denver for the second time, and these two teams face off for the second game in a row. In their first two matchups, the Warriors handled the Nuggets easily, winning the first contest at Pepsi Center by 8 (and it wasn't that close) and the second on Saturday night by 15.
Back in early February when the Warriors beat the Nuggets at Denver, the Warriors had played in a number of close games against quality opponents prior and I warned in the game preview that they were capable of beating any team on any night. That Warriors team had the full compliment of its roster, too, with Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, David Lee and Dorrell Wright starting. I don't believe the Warriors were thinking playoffs back then, but they certainly hadn't given up on their season.
Saturday night's Warriors team - and the one the Nuggets will see Monday night - looks quite different and shouldn't be able to beat anyone on any given night. Ellis has since been traded for the injured Andrew Bogut. Curry is likely out for the season. And Biedrins comes off the bench and the Warriors start three rookies, two of whom were second round picks. Before Saturday's victory, this Warriors team had lost 7 of its previous 9 games and had presumably given up on the season (hence why Curry is sitting although many have speculated that he can come back). Hence why Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson was so furious after the loss, saying...
"It’s getting ridiculous at this point. We’re losing to teams we should never … that we shouldn’t lose to, especially with the magnitude of what’s going on in the season with the playoff run and where we’re at. We can’t be losing these games."
I couldn't have said it better myself. Reading between the lines, Lawson is referring to the Nuggets' overall lack of a sense of urgency that has crippled this team as the lockout-shortened 2011-12 grinds to its ending point. That lack of urgency has been eerily present lately in the form of losses to the likes of the Warriors, Hornets, Raptors and Timberwolves. Were the Nuggets to have won just half of those games, we'd be looking ahead to the playoffs as opposed to panicking that they'll be missed altogether.
But the time has come to stop talking playoffs (this includes the fans, the players and the coaching staff) and start talking about how to beat the teams on the regular season schedule that stand in the way of a ninth-consecutive playoff berth for the Nuggets franchise. And the first such team are the Warriors - again.
The Nuggets lost on Saturday due to an assortment of reasons aptly pointed out by Nate in his game recap. Predominantly, the Nuggets' lack of energy cost them as they slogged through the second and fourth quarters, dropping shots along the way. And secondarily, Nuggets' head coach George Karl's refusal to play anyone of size killed the Nuggets on the boards. While Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee and Chris Andersen collected dust on the bench, the Nuggets managed to get thoroughly out-rebounded by the second-worst rebounding team in the NBA. You have to love the nightly effort the Nuggets are getting from Al Harrington, but Big Al can't deliver wins by himself ... especially on the glass.
And thus, one would think that going into Monday night Karl will go big. Give McGee and Koufos more meaningful minutes, keep the Warriors away from the rim and gobble up the boards. It should also be mentioned that the bigs must step up when given the opportunity. For McGee and Koufos to collect 10 total rebounds against a shoddy rebounding squad like the Warriors is unacceptable. If I wanted less than 10 rebounds from a Nuggets big man I'd have kept Nene Hilario around (sorry, but it's true).
So here's hoping the Nuggets avenge their two previous losses to the Warriors and post a solid W in the win-loss column on Monday night by playing big and owning the paint and the boards. Otherwise, the Nuggets will far bigger problems to contend with than the sheer embarrassment of being swept by the Warriors.
SCOUTING THE WARRIORS
-David Lee: Despite all the losing he has been a part of, Lee has been on a bit of a hot streak lately in the box score, routinely scoring 20-plus points and grabbing 10-plus rebounds. Lee is having a fine second season in Golden State and ensures that the Warriors won't have to worry about the power forward position for a while.
-Klay Thompson: The rookie has been given ample minutes by head coach Mark Jackson and is making the most of it. In his last 21 games, Thompson has scored less than 10 points just once.
-Richard Jefferson: How were the Warriors suckered into trading for Jefferson prior to the trade deadline? Jefferson is owed $11 million ... in 2013-14. And Jefferson has been rewarding his bosses throughout the NBA with a continued reversion in the quality of his play.
-Andris Biedrins: Biedrins averages 16 minutes per game, shoots over 60% from the field and somehow manages to score less than one basket per game. Oh, and the Warriors will be paying him a mere $9 million ... in 2013-14.
Many Nuggets fans have suggested that missing the playoffs (where the Nuggets are doomed to lose in 4 or 5 games anyway) and picking up a lottery pick is the way to go. I disagree. I think making the playoffs could do wonders for the future experience of these young Nuggets. If they are to overcome the injuries, the trades and the schedule and find themselves in the post-season, this young squad will benefit greatly into the future.