|Game 66: 2014-15 NBA Season|
|Series 1-0 Warriors|
|March 13th, 2015|
|Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
|7:00 PM MT|
|Altitude / 104.3 FM
|Stephen Curry||PG||Ty Lawson|
|Klay Thompson||SG||Randy Foye|
|Harrison Barnes||SF||Danilo Gallinari|
|Draymond Green||PF||Wilson Chandler|
|Andrew Bogut||C||Kenneth Faried|
|Golden State of Mind||Blogs||Denver Stiffs|
Ognjen Kuzmic and James McAdoo (inactive)
Jusuf Nurkic (probable) - Right Ankle Sprain
Wilson Chandler (probable) - Left Knee Soreness
|The Warriors have won their last two games at Denver, but just three of their last 12 at Pepsi Center.||Etc...||The Nuggets have scored at least 100 points in all six of their games under coach Melvin Hunt.|
When people around town find out that I write for Denver Stiffs, I inevitably get asked a lot: "How did the Denver Nuggets get into this mess?" - i.e. how did a team that won an NBA franchise-record 57 games just two seasons ago plummet into the NBA cellar so seemingly quickly? To even begin to answer that question, one must look no further than the Nuggets' Friday night opponent: the Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors.
It seems like eons ago, but it was only the spring of 2013 when the upstart, 47-win Warriors - who hadn't appeared in the NBA playoffs for six years - upended the 57-win Nuggets who were making their 10th consecutive playoff appearance, the NBA's second-longest streak at the time. From that playoff series forward, the Warriors surged while the Nuggets withered. Soon after the Warriors' upset over the Nuggets, gone from Denver was then-general manager Masai Ujiri, head coach George Karl and the Nuggets starting two-guard Andre Iguodala who left to sign with ... the Warriors (talk about adding insult to injury).
In fact, it was these same Warriors they may have precipitated the firing of two Nuggets coaches. First Karl in 2013 and then Karl's successor Brian Shaw when Shaw's Nuggets laid down and died by 43 points at Golden State on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day earlier this season.
So you can't fault Nuggets fans for directing pure ire in the Warriors' direction every time they come to Denver. But despite putting forth a crummy record to date this season, our Nuggets - they of a meager 24 victories - are suddenly playing inspired basketball under the direction of interim head coach Melvin Hunt. Ever since the Nuggets removed Hunt's former boss Shaw as head coach just two weeks ago, Hunt has guided the Nuggets to an impressive 4-2 record, including a Wednesday night drubbing over the Eastern Conference leading Atlanta Hawks.
And should the Nuggets best the Western Conference leading Warriors on Friday night, many will be asking for Hunt's "interim" tag to be removed in place of something more permanent.
Three things to look for in this game ...
1) Bench play. One of the reasons the Warriors have skyrocketed to 50-plus wins this early in the season is their supreme bench play, led by the aforementioned Iguodala and augmented with the likes of David Lee, Shaun Livingston, Marreese Speights and Leandro Barbosa. With Jusuf Nurkic injured, the Nuggets are forced to start either Kenneth Faried or Wilson Chandler, thus removing whatever bench punch the Nuggets might have had.
2) Melvin Hunt's energy. Watching Wednesday's Hawks game in person, I couldn't believe how much energy Hunt expends coaching a single game. It's as if he's a fan who gets to coach. I love it and it's fun to watch, but can this guy really keep it up?!
3) Take the over. With Hunt turning up the Nuggets' pace and the Warriors already leading the NBA IN pace, Friday night's Nuggets / Warriors game may turn out to be an old school, 80's style Nuggets / Warriors shootout.
Scouting the Warriors
-Stephen Curry: In the conversation alongside James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook for the 2014-15 NBA MVP. Curry has officially cemented himself as the rich man's Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
-Draymond Green: Does a little bit of everything right and is saving my fantasy basketball season. And for less than $1 million in salary, Green is probably the NBA's biggest bargain. For now.
-Klay Thompson: Curry's "Splash Brother" backcourt mate, he's good for 43.4% from three-point range and must be defended behind the arc at all times.
-David Lee: When healthy, Lee has contributed off the Warriors' bench. But for the $15 million-plus the Warriors must pay Lee this season and next, the franchise is hardly getting "bang for the buck" and might lose Green to free agency as a result.
-Andre Iguodala: An awkward signing for both Iguodala and the Warriors, the turncoat Iggy has been relegated to a key bench role and is posting season lows in all statistical categories. Of course, he might win a ring so the joke will soon be on us!
We mustn't forget that four-sevenths of the Nuggets players who helped deliver 57 wins two seasons ago are still on the team - Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler. If the Nuggets beat the Warriors on Friday night, will it prove that this was indeed a 45-plus win team that Shaw coached to 25 wins?