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Preview: Denver Nuggets head to the bay to take on Golden State Warriors

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Nuggets get the best in the West tonight

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets are back on the winning path. After a three game losing streak the Nuggets were able to topple LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in LA on Wednesday. They will get no time to celebrate however as tonight they find themselves in Northern California to face the defending world champion Golden State Warriors for the third and final game of their road trip.

The last time these two teams faced each other, the Warriors had their way with Denver. While they shirked around the idea after the game, it certainly seemed like Golden State was out to make a point that they were clearly the superior team in the West. As Kevin Durant said after the game “I think they know who we are.” Surprisingly though, the Warriors have been in a bit of a funk lately. Losers of three of their last four and five of their last eight, Golden State appears content to simply maintain their lead over Denver in the West by exerting as little energy as possible.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (43-21) at Golden State Warriors (44-20)

When: 8:30 PM MST

Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland CA

How to watch/listen: ESPN, Altitude TV, AltitudeNOW.com, the AltitudeNOW app, ESPN + and Altitude Radio 92.5 FM

Rival blog: Golden State of Mind

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Warriors Advantage
Position Nuggets Warriors Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Steph Curry Warriors
SG Gary Harris Klay Thompson Even
SF Will Barton Kevin Durant Warriors
PF Paul Millsap Draymond Green Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Demarcus Cousins Nuggets
Bench Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee, Isaiah Thomas, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, Damion Lee Even

Injured players: Trey Lyles - out (hamstring), Michael Porter Jr - out (back), Klay Thompson - game time decision (knee), Shaun Livingston - game time decision (neck), Kevon Looney - game time decision (pelvis), Damian Jones - out (pectoral), Andrew Bogut - out (shrimp’s still on the barbie)

Key matchup: Nikola Jokic vs DeMarcus Cosuins

Cousins has topped twenty points and twenty-nine minutes in three of the last four games for Golden State. It appears that he is finding his stride at the perfect time. Pre-achilles injury, it seemed that most accepted Cousins as the best center in the NBA. Since then Jokic and Joel Embiid have battled for that title but Cousins is still very formidable. Jokic has been an elite talent this year and his defense much improved so it’s going to be very interesting to see how these two perform against one another. Expect Boogie to use his strength advantage, and expect Nikola to test Cousin’s lateral quickness by putting the ball on the floor and taking it to the cup.

Key thing to watch for: could be running into a buzzsaw

As I said in the open, the Warriors are struggling a bit but appear to be fine with it as long as they maintain the top seed. The winner of tonight’s game takes a 2-1 lead on the season series and puts themselves in the driver’s seat for any tie break scenarios (the next likely tiebreaker would be conference record). No doubt Golden State is taking their foot off the gas pedal a bit in the interest of health but I have a feeling its full steam ahead tonight. This is an important game for home court advantage in the West, the Nuggets should be prepared for the full force of the defending champs.

Opening thought: a loss isn’t the end of the world

I really think the chances of winning tonight are slim, but that’s OK. Obviously stepping back from just tonight’s game and seeing that a loss would mean dropping four of the last five is pretty bad optics, but the Nuggets have been lucky in that many of the teams chasing them, and the Warriors in front of them, didn’t take advantage and lost several games themselves. Of course it would be great for the Nuggets to win tonight but if they don’t I don’t really think its that big of a deal. The top seed in the West would be nice, the Nuggets have never accomplished that goal in their NBA history, but the real goal is to win the division and maintain nothing worse than the 2 seed. Lose tonight if you must, but then come home ready to get back on a winning streak.