5-on-5: The first round and beyond

The Nuggets kick off their first series of the 2013 playoffs against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. With injuries still lingering and a rotation in flux, there are certainly questions to be answered — which is what we plan to do below. As always, please feel free to play along and submit your answers to each of the following questions in the comments section.

1. How much will lingering injuries hurt the Nuggets chances of advancing past the first round?

Kalen: Hardly any. Even if Faried misses the first game he’s still gonna play the majority of the series, unless of course he gets injured again. The Nuggets went 8-1 down the stretch with Lawson and Gallinari mostly out of the lineup. Lawson’s now back and he hasn’t missed a step. Unless something catastrophic happens, the Nuggets are just too deep to let injuries derail them.

Tom: Not very much. Ty Lawson looked great in the last three regular season games, putting up 10 assists and three steals with no turnovers against Portland and a team-high 26 points — including the game winner — against the Bucks. Kenneth Faried’s recover appears to be progressing nicely, though he may not be 100 percent when the playoffs begin. Even without Gallinari, the Nuggets have been very good — especially at home, where they finished with the eighth best home record in league history.

Matt: I don’t think it will hurt all that much for the first round. The Nuggets are still better than the Warriors and Andre Iguodala has been playing out of his mind lately. Add in what looks like a healthy Ty Lawson with the emergence of Evan Fournier and I think the Nuggets will be fine. But after that, things become tougher.

Charlie: The injury factor has the potential to prolong what should be a fun series. Starting in the afternoon on the first night of the playoffs won’t give Kenneth Faried time to practice or even feel out the ankle on game day. The Nuggets are off until Tuesday after that so I expect him to miss at least one game and return only when he’s ready to start and play big minutes. There will be some adjustment there so I can see the series going six or seven games, but Denver advances with the return of a healthy Manimal.

Joel: With home court advantage and a deep, competent bench, Denver’s chances of getting beyond the first round shouldn’t be diminished too greatly. Chandler has really cranked up his offense of late, Fournier is helping a great deal on both ends of the court, and Randolph can provide some of the length on defense that was lost when Gallinari went down. The only caveat is that if Faried can’t return to full strength as quickly as advertised, Denver’s rebounding could seriously suffer.

2. Which player-vs-player match-up is most critical to the Nuggets success?

Kalen: Andre Iguodala vs. Klay Thompson. Lawson and Curry are going to likely cancel each other out. The Nuggets are also gonna make Curry a top priority given all the hype he’s acquired lately. But Thompson can be just as deadly as Curry from long range. He finished the year third in the NBA in 3-pointers made and shoots above 40 percent from downtown. If Andre Iguodala can suffocate him, Curry can make all the 3-pointers he wants and it won’t make a difference.

Tom: Steph Curry broke Ray Allen’s league record for three-point makes in a season. He also averaged nearly seven assists per game as the focal point of Golden State’s offense. Meanwhile, Andre Iguodala is in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year award, having routinely forced opposing guards into nights they would rather forget. Whichever player can impose his will on the other will dictate how the series goes.

Matt: David Lee vs. Kenneth Faried. Faried has always struggled to defend Lee and with a bum ankle it won’t be any easier. This seems like one of the two real matchups that the Nuggets will struggle to win. This season Lee averaged 23.3 points on 56 percent shooting, 10.3 rebounds and 5 assists. Lee going for 30 a couple of times wouldn’t surprise me at all — nor would it be good news for Denver.

Charlie: Steph Curry against the Nuggets’ defense by committee. Curry’s been so hampered by injuries throughout his career no one’s quite sure just how good he really is. Many think this postseason setting is where Curry will take the next step and blossom into a superstar. I think that’s the only way Golden State advances and it should be fun to see what happens. Expect the Nuggets to throw a lot of different looks at him and trap aggressively in spots.

Joel: David Lee vs. Faried. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack are often muttered in the same breath when the Warriors’ offense is discussed. But Lee is their second leading scorer and has pretty much had his way with Faried this season on both ends of the court. Defending the perimeter may be Denver’s glaring weakness in this series, but controlling the paint and the glass will be huge in limiting the dimensionality of the Warriors’ offense and denying second chance scoring.

3. What trend/statistic scares or encourages you most about this series?

Kalen: The fact the Nuggets are 38-3 at home this year and are currently on a 23-game winning streak at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets just don’t lose at home. In the playoffs the atmosphere has double the intensity and energy of regular season games. If the Nuggets get out and run at home with the crowd behind them, it’s lights out for Golden State.

Tom: Denver has compiled a 33-15 record against teams .500 or better this season, including 20-7 against Western Conference playoff teams. Since 2001, only four other teams finished with 31 or more wins and 15 or fewer losses against winning teams. Three of them (’02 Lakers, ’09 Lakers, ’03 Spurs) won the NBA championship; last season’s Spurs fell short in the Conference Finals.

Matt: The Nuggets defense on spot-up shooters. The Nuggets ranked 30th in the league in points per possession this season against spot-up shooters and are going up against a Warriors team that is full of knockdown shooters on the perimeter. If the Nuggets get lazy, and some players can tend too, the Warriors are going to have a chance to win a game or two from behind the arc.

Charlie: The Nuggets have a better offense, better defense, a lot more depth and just as much balance on both sides of the ball. They earned home court, won 10 more games than the Warriors and were simply the better team by almost every measure this season.

Joel: The most encouraging trend is that the Warriors haven’t been able to knock Denver off their game at all this season. The Nuggets have consistently performed at their usual levels of efficiency across the board, all while exerting their style of play. If the Warriors can’t deny the Nuggets an aspect of their game they rely on to win, their chances of surviving the series drop dramatically. The scariest stat? Curry just set the record for the most 3-pointers in a season.

4. Which player has to have the biggest series in order for the Nuggets to win?

Kalen: Ty Lawson. Everyone is gonna bring it but Ty is without question the heart of this team. He’s shown the ability to hit big, game-winning shots and has carried the Nuggets through most of the tougher games this season. If he steps up and plays at the All-Star level he was in February when he averaged 23 points and eight assists per game, the Nuggets might end up sweeping the Warriors.

Tom: The Nuggets are the best offensive rebounding team in the league, while the Warriors are the best defensive rebounding team in the league — by percentage. Kenneth Faried needs to have a big series creating extra possessions in order to give the Nuggets the best chance to win.

Matt: Andre Iguodala. This won’t be about offense. The Nuggets will score enough to beat the Warriors in most games. This is entirely about defense. Iguodala must make life hard for whichever Warriors guard is hot at the time, whether it be Steph Curry, Klay Thompson or Jarrett Jack. If he can do that and keep any specific player from dominating a game then the Nuggets will cruise.

Charlie: The Nuggets bigs. I realize it’s a little cheap to skew the rules and name a whole group, but it is so key they do it as a group with Faried still rehabbing from injury. They must stay solid and resist the temptation to cheat too far underneath screens in order to help. Golden State has gotten so many good shots against the Nuggets off mistakes like this. Denver’s bigs are young and give good effort, but they must play smart, limit their mistakes, and produce more than normally with Faried still working his way back from injury.

Joel: Ty Lawson. The cliché that as he rises or falls so do the Nuggets is borne of reality, and that will be true for this series as well. Defensively, he has a very tall order in holding up his end of guarding the 3-point arc, and if he can do a respectable job it will go a long way towards helping Denver win. He’ll need to play with confidence, aggression and poise to ensure the offense runs as optimally as possible.

5. How far will the Nuggets make it this year?

Kalen: As I always say, I’m a cynic’s cynic when it comes to the Nuggets. After years of playoff blunders and infuriating losses in the first round, I’m about as jaded as you can get. But this year is different. I actually have faith in this team and it’s because they’re playing defense! As the old adage goes, defense wins championships — but it also equals success in the postseason no matter how much talent is on your roster. With Andre Iguodala at the helm defensively, I see the Nuggets making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before succumbing to the Thunder.

Tom: I expect the Nuggets to handle the Warriors easily, and then to steal a road game against a hobbled Spurs team to advance. Without Gallinari, the tandem of Durant and Westbrook will be too much to contain. The Nuggets will make it to Game 6 of the Conference Finals.

Matt: Second round. If I was 100 percent sure Faried was 100 percent healthy I may have picked the Nuggets to beat a banged up Spurs team and move on to the Western Conference Finals. But without that knowledge it’s tough for me. I’m taking the Nuggets in six against the Warriors and then getting knocked off in seven by the Spurs — though a trip to the Western Conference Finals wouldn’t surprise me either.

Charlie: Even without Faried, who I think is going to miss a game and possibly two, Denver should conquer the Warriors in seven with home-court advantage. I also believe the Spurs advance and from there it all depends on where each team stands in regards to health and fatigue. Ultimately I think the Spurs get healthy, take care of their first-round series quicker than Denver and beats the Nuggets to advance to the Conference Finals. I hope I’m wrong, but I could see a healthy Spurs team winning a championship this season.

Joel: The Nuggets should be able to take care of business against Golden State, and if they do they’ll face either a banged-up Spurs team or the Kobe-less Lakers. Provided that they have (save for Gallo) a fully healthy roster by then, either of those should be winnable series. Getting past the Thunder may not be in the cards, but if they don’t at least reach the Western Conference Finals and take it to six or seven games, it will be a disappointment.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.
  • Steve

    I wouldnt be surprised by anything lol. It wouldnt surprise me if we lost in the 1st rd or made it to the finals. This team can beat okc in a 7 game series IF the refs dont get in the way. Not saying we will win but wouldnt surprise me. I guess winning it all would e a surprise bt that is about it.

  • Ban Johnson

    1 — Hard to say. Gallinari had games of 21, 20, 20, and 21 points against Golden State this year. They didn’t really have a lot of answers against him. And all those games were really competitive even with his contribution… Also, David Lee and Carl Landry had a lot of success in those games, and that was with a healthy Faried, (and the additional size of Gallinari to bother them.) In other words, other guys better step up.

    2 — Faried and/or McGee and/or Koufos and/or Chandler vs. David Lee. Have to slow him down. Lee had games of 18, 21, 31 and 23 against the Nugs this season. Too much. (Carl Landry is a problem too.)

    3 — Most encouraging trend by far is that the Nuggets are 46-13 in their last 59 games. That’s elite level play over the long haul. Nuggets just find ways to win games. Warriors, with or without Bogut, haven’t even been close to that level.

    4 — Iguodala has to keep up the elite level of play on both ends he’s maintained since Gallinari went down. He’s established himself without question as the Nuggets’ best player, so he has to be the best guy on the court in the series (and that includes Curry.)

    5 — There’s been kind of an air of magic around the Nuggets this season, even despite their shaky interior defense, free throw shooting, 3-point shooting, and 3-point defense. WCF or even NBA finals wouldn’t surprise me. But my rational self tells me the Spurs have proven themselves the better, more disciplined team over the long haul…and, IF Ginobili is healthy (and since Gallinari won’t be), will probably be too much of a hurdle this season. But I honestly have no idea. I just want to enjoy the ride.

    Also, just want to say…you guys are taking the Warriors too lightly. Their offensive strengths match really well the Nuggets’ worst defensive vulnerabilities — crafty post play and 3-point shooting.

  • trank

    i think the nuggets system and depth and the fact so many different players can go off makes them better in series/playoff situation. all the other teams are going to be much more predictable than the nuggets. in any series, as the nuggets learn the other teams’ strengths and the coaches can adjust, the nuggets will get better as they go. other teams will have a harder time adjusting to the nuggets in the series situation- so much of their success is unplanned and on the fly. and if the nuggets can crank their speed up another notch for the playoffs they may have a bad game here and there but they can go all the way.

  • Finazz

    I think we can make it to the WCF. Like a few of the boys I doubt if we can get over the line against OKC. But, and this is a big but….. If we do over come OKC I think we are the only team in the league to be able to be Miami. OKC can’t beat them, spurs can’t beat them, no one in the east can beat them. Our running game has the ability to get a road win.

  • Bobby

    Am I the only one here who isn’t ready to anoint the OKC the West? To beat us Westbrook and Durant have to score 70 points and get to the line about 40 times. I don’t think they can do it 4 times.

    • trank

      you’re not the only one- i second that. it’s the fact that it would be a series makes a huge difference IMO. wear them out and they can’t do it 4 times.

  • AaronCAPS

    I’m kinda nervous about thus series. I’m not gonna lie. We should win in 6 but still, this series has potential to go either way in my opinion.

    • Nick

      Totally agree, I would much rather have gotten the rockets. Curry could average 50 in this series.

  • Tom2

    On February 2nd, Golden State was 30-17. They finished the season 47-35. In other words, over the past couple months, they’ve played sub .500 ball (17-18).

    On February 1st, Denver was 30-18, 1/2 a game behind Golden State. They finished 57-25, going 27-7 over the past couple months.

    Golden State had a great start to the season, but they were mostly lucky. Their point differential of +0.9 is the worst in the West and suggestive of a team that should have only won 44 games.

    Denver had a rough start to the season with a very difficult schedule, yet still managed to put up a stellar point differential of +5.1 and an appropriate number of wins (57) to match it.

    The main point of all of this is that the second half of the season is more indicative of the actual quality of these two teams than the first half, and thus this series is likely to be no contest. Golden State is a slightly above average team that just happens to have the best shooter in the league. Denver is the third best team in the league, and would have been the best perhaps in a different season (like 09-10). Golden State is simply outclassed by Denver, even with all of Denver’s injuries. They will be lucky to win one nail-biter at home, but otherwise, I expect Denver to completely stomp them, similar to how Denver stomped New Orleans and Dallas a few years ago.

    • CJP32

      Well said and I totally agree. GK has this team ready and the guys look really locked in. They won’t take the Warriors lightly they know they have to attack and play excellent defense. Ty and Iggy must dominant both ends, Chandler has to rebound and shut down Lee. Dre, CBrew and McGee must bring the energy that’s needed. I wish Evan a good series but being a rookie I can’t see him playing major minutes with only a handful of games where he played meaningful minutes. The refs better not dictate this series, let both teams run. Nuggets in 5. Do it for Gallo!

    • Tom2

      My predictions for the whole playoffs:
      === 1st Round ===
      GS-DEN: Denver in 5
      HOU-OKC: OKC in 5
      LAL-SA: SA in 5
      MEM-LAC: LAC in 7

      MIL-MIA: Miami in 4
      BOS-NYK: New York in 5
      ATL-IND: Indiana in 5
      CHI-BKN: Brooklyn in 7

      === 2nd Round ===
      DEN-SA: Denver in 6
      LAC-OKC: OKC in 7

      BKN-MIA: Miami in 4
      IND-NYK: New York in 7

      === Conference Finals ===
      DEN-OKC: OKC in 7 (or Denver in 6 if you’re a homer)

      NYK-MIA: Miami in 5

      === NBA Finals ===
      OKC-MIA: Miami in 7, Finals MVP Lebron James
      (or DEN-MIA: Denver in 5, Finals MVP Andre Iguodala if you’re an incorrigible homer)

      • Evan Woodruff

        Nope, Ty Lawson Finals MVP.

      • googergieger

        OKC can’t beat Miami. Horrible match up for them. Miami in six at most if they face OKC. Only a healthy Spurs team, Memphis, or healthy Denver team can push Miami to seven games. Unfortunately Miami is likely to win again this year. This year because they are actually the best team. Next year with a healthy Denver team and a sane schedule, and hopefully finally some respect from the refs, Denver is going to have the best record in the NBA and finally start showing up for EVERY game. At least you’d hope.

        • Tom2

          OKC had one of the greatest point differentials in NBA history. All other teams with that high a differential went on to win it all. They also have the second best player of his generation and are ridiculously good at shooting free throws (22.2/26.8 82.8% per game as a team!). They couldn’t beat Miami last year, but every year is different. On the other hand, Lebron James… so yeah, I suppose Miami could sweep the playoffs and I wouldn’t be shocked.

  • Golden nug

    I don’t post on here often but I feel like this team deserves our total support. Man what a season they have given to us. After melo left i didn’t think something like this was possible for at least an other ten years. These guys have made me feel so great through the season and maybe, just maybe we have A team that could win it all. Might not be this year could be a few years from now. Could me this YEAR, i just want to say to all my fellow nuggets fans even if you don’t agree with me lets all raise a glass to our favorite team and lets root and love them till the END of their run. They will get far and lets enjoy it

    • JetLife82

      Amen brother!

  • Cory

    This series the Nuggets need to take care business. If we can sweep which we can, sweep them. Looking for the Nugs to dominate.#more champagne

  • S

    Man I have a bad feeling Andre Miller is going to mess something up. Please, God, don’t let him walk around like a drunk on defense. At least jog.

  • http://yahoo.com prospector

    Key to this series is KARL…. Small ball = Golden State shooting lights out from beyond the arc… I wish that we could leave MILLER at home for the series to keep KARL from resisting his small ball adiction… Lately the maniac has been playing MILLER, TY, EVAN, and BREWER some minutes on the floor AT THE SAME TIME…. With MILLER’s LAZYNESS, TY’s HEIGHT, BREWER’s CHEATING (gambling), AND A MISMATCHED EVAN AGAINST bigger players this means Golden STATE making runs…. This means close games…. That means possible series loss…. Especially close games in the 4th with MILLER and TY on the floor, with no rebounding if FARIED is off the floor… This means losses… SO this series is entirely up to KARL….

    The question is can KARL put down his small ball (no perimeter defensive playing) crack pipe down????

    EMERGENCY, Quick call the “Celebrity Rehab” loser doctor and have him consol KARL…

    • NugzNazty

      yikes, you sound crazy as shit.

      • http://yahoo.com prospector

        Crazy??

        Fact: Andre Miller has never won a playoff series… That is definitely the mark of greatness for a 37 year old player….

        Fact: KARL has never won a ring, despite regular season greatness…

        FACT: Karl with a better Sonics team got punked as a number one seed against our Nuggets…

        If these facts cannot get into your head, I have some swamp land in Florida I can sell you for a really great price!!!!

        • NugzNazty

          It’s all the caps and rhetoric. Calm down nugget head.

          • JetLife82

            Lmao this made my day

  • http://yahoo.com prospector

    For the slow:

    I am saying that our teams achilles heal is our reliance on small ball.. And the fact that the opposing teams shooting percentage is lights out against the 2pg lineups…

    I am saying as our record WITHOUT TY indicates going big in the backcourt wins games for us…. I AIN’T LYING

  • http://yahoo.com prospector

    Homework, NEXT time we have two point guards on the court watch what happens……
    How many point did ELLIS light us up for??? Over 30???

    IGGY playing point minutes = double figure assist and wins…. THAT is an established FACT now …

    I know most American educated children have problems with deductive reasoning… SO WATCH THE GAMES… WATCH PERIMETER DEFENSE… Then offer a response.. PROVE ME WRONG

    • NugzNazty

      Man, you are weird.

    • NugzNazty

      hate on andre miller now, dare ya. fuckin noob

  • googergieger

    The fix is in. Lakers can beat Golden State easy. This is the one thing that worried me. Refs are going to make sure Lakers and Golden State advance. Disgusting officiating.

    • googergieger

      Though they are calling a somewhat fair second half now. Though that doesn’t cancel out the awful first half. Also Karl is horrible at reading momentum. I know I’d say I wouldn’t criticize him anymore and he is doing more good than bad but it is weird how long he’s been going at this and how bad he is at reading momentum. I know him and Pop don’t like calling time outs for different reasons but still.

  • Darren

    So… That Andre Miller guy… He’s lighting it up offensively, and he’s not giving away as much as usual on D. I just wish Doris on ESPN would get off his dick a little…

    • Darren

      Never mind. Slobber away.

      • NugzNazty

        haha awesome

  • Giovanni

    Andreeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

    Wow what a game….