After a second home loss to open the season 0-2 at the Pepsi Center, the Denver Nuggets have to hit the road on the second half of a back-to-back to face the undefeated defending champion Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry has been unconscious as a shooter, and in his latest performance led the Warriors back from 10 down in the 4th against the Clippers to keep the Warriors’ perfect record intact. The Warriors lead the league in points per 100 possessions and give up the fewest, which make this game a daunting matchup.

The Nuggets, on the other hand, were unable to muster up any offense or energy against a team playing a back-to-back and went down in ugly fashion 96-84 as they ran out of gas in the 4th quarter and had terrible pace throughout. They looked slow and disinterested for most of the game, and with a short and ineffective bench (other than Will Barton, who seems to be the only energized one) there was no recourse once the starters faltered in the second half. With four front court players either nursing injuries (Kenneth Faried, Nikola Jokic, Joffrey Lauvergne) or out (Jusuf Nurkic), Denver will have to muster a much higher collective effort to stay in this game.

The Basics:

Who: The Denver Nuggets (2-3) at The Golden State Warriors (5-0)

When: 8:30 PM MST

Where: ORACLE Arena, Oakland CA

Where to Watch: Altitude TV

Enemy Blog: Golden State of Mind

Golden State Warriors
Denver Nuggets Advantage
PG Steph Curry
Emmanuel Mudiay Warriors
SG Klay Thompson Gary Harris Warriors
SF Harrison Barnes
Danilo Gallinari Warriors
PF Draymond Green Kenneth Faried Warriors
C Festus Ezeli
J.J. Hickson Warriors
Bench Andre Iguodala, James Michael McAdoo, Marreese Speights, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa Jameer Nelson, Darrell Arthur, Will Barton, Nikola Jokic, Randy Foye, J.J. Hickson, Mike Miller

Not the Nuggets

Injured players: Wilson Chandler, hip (out), Jusuf Nurkic, knee (out), Joffrey Lauvergne, back (questionable)

Three things to watch:

1) Whether the Nuggets can defend without fouling. The Nuggets have given up 28 free-throws a game, fouling at the 5th-worst rate in the league. The Warriors have taken the 4th-most free throws a game at 28.6. Holding them under 25 trips to the free throw line would seem like a victory and not giving a great shooting team extra points is important. Golden State leads the league in eFG%, hitting both 2s and 3s at an astronomical rate. Denver has to find a way to force them into bad shots without sending them to the charity stripe. That’s a tall order.

2) Key matchup: the Nuggets vs. the rim. It doesn’t really matter what the Nuggets can or cannot do defensively against Golden State if they cannot score. The Nuggets are averaging only 96 points per game, and haven’t been in a single-digit finish so far. If they’re on offensively, they’ve won. If they cannot get buckets, specifically outside buckets, they have gone sedentary on offense and seem to lose hope easily. Denver’s four best offensive players this season are Danilo Gallinari, Faried, Lauvergne and Barton. The rest of the team is pretty thoroughly negative. The Nuggets need to get good looks as a team and they need to make them, or this game will be over by half-time.

3) Playing all four quarters would be nice. The Nuggets have started off well in most of their games, staying competitive with the Thunder and Jazz, and even keeping it within shouting distance against the Timberwolves. It’s been the 3rd quarter that has been their undoing. Whatever halftime adjustments are being made are not only not working but making things worse. The Nuggets have been outscored by 37 combined points in the second half in their three losses. Whether this is because Michael Malone is pushing them too hard in practice, missing cohesion due to so many new and unfamiliar pieces or simply the lack of fresh bodies due to injury, it has to be fixed.

Also, try not to let this guy go off for 50:

Prediction: 115-95, Golden State takes this one handily at home.

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