Game 6 Preview: Why Harrison Barnes is Hurting the Nuggets

As George Karl was forced to make adjustments to counteract Stephen Curry and the Warriors new small ball lineup in the series, two main thoughts started to pop up. First let Curry get his points and limit his teammates and second play a big lineup, like Denver has done all season long with two traditional bigs instead of Wilson Chandler at the power forward spot.

Unfortunately for the Nuggets, despite a victory in Game 5, doing those things may not be possible together. One of the important parts of the Nuggets playing with two bigs is Kenneth Faried playing Harrison Barnes on the defensive end. But Faried has struggled a bit in that role as his unfamiliarity of defensive rotations has allowed Barnes to get a lot of open shot attempts, some he has knocked down and some he hasn’t. The following are four examples of the problems Faried has had, three makes and a miss, from Game 5 when Barnes had 23 points.

Barnes 1st 3:

Barnes 3 1 catch

As you can see on Barnes first made three he caught the ball with Faried way too far away. There is just no way for Faried to get to Barnes in time to make any difference on his shot. Get used to this type of distance, it happens a lot.

Barnes 2nd 3:

Barnes 3 2 pre catch

This picture comes from before Barnes catches the ball. Before the picture Faried was randomly wandering the lane before jumping over to double Klay Thompson. The problem? As you can see by the arrow Harrison Barnes is nowhere close to Faried. And as the next picture will show that is a pretty big problem.

Barnes 3 2 catch

Barnes caught it and no Nugget was close enough to make a difference. And he drilled it.

Barnes 5th 3:


Barnes 3 5 pre catch

Another pre-catch photo for this one. Faried is too far into the lane on this play. With most defensive systems it is Lawson’s responsibly to drop down and bump Bogut, slowing him down enough that a big can recover. After all, if Bogut catches on the move where Faried is now is too deep into the lane to help anyway. Faried has his head turned to Barnes, a cardinal sin of defense, and the result after a deflection is the following.

Barnes 3 5 catch

There is the catch. Again no Nugget that close as Barnes enters into his shot. Again he drilled it.

The problems are not just on the makes though. Barnes has missed some open looks, keeping the numbers lower than they could be, which should scare Denver. An example of a Barnes miss that came off a perfectly clean look.

Barnes miss catch

Faried lost Barnes in transition and was dropping too far in the lane to be able to recover once the pass was caught. Barnes missed but it was a wide open miss.

The Nuggets biggest problem is that the matchup is not one they can really exploit because Faried does not possess a post-up game and he has not been all that effective on the offensive glass where he is averaging just two offensive rebounds a game. If the Nuggets are essentially willing to punt on the Curry matchup in order to limit the rest of the Warriors they cannot afford to lose individual matchups. And if Faried continues to be lost defending Barnes they have the potential to not just lose it, but get blown out in it. If Barnes goes for 20 plus points again in Oracle Arena the Nuggets may be in a lot of trouble when the fourth quarter rolls around.

The  pictures are from video on the NBA media site. Please follow me on Twitter.


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  • toluene_hawk

    Give Gallinari some Tylenol and tell him to get out there.

    • Gorillabuddy

      I’m fine with Barnes shooting some open 3s if it means that we win the rebound battle. We cannot play small ball just to try to contain Barnes. It’s been proven to not work against these guys.

      • Gorillabuddy

        Didn’t mean to make that a reply lol. Yeah tho, just tell Gallo to buck up and drop some dimes on em.

  • steve

    lawson iggy brewer chandler mcgee to start IMO. put chandler on barnes…i think chandler is a better rebounder anyways so i dont think we lose that much “size.” Bring faried off the bench and it will limit his time on barnes. Even if it’s just for the first 5 minutes of the halfs. Brewer is due for a big game imo…he does this where he has a blah couple games and then just explodes with a few corner 3s and transition buckets. GSW will attempt to cover iggy better so chandler or brewer SHOULD have a good game.

  • Old Timer

    Nice post Matt. This is a pick your poison type situation. Denver cannot guard everyone with Golden State’s exceptional spacing. This is a perfect example of how David Lee’s injury has impacted the series. When you have Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Stephanie Curry and Harrison Barnes all spotting up, which one would you rather concede an open look to?

    Denver tried ignoring Bogut in game four and please ask JaVale McGee how that worked after Bogut threw down on him.

    There is proof that Faried is overhelping in pictures two and three. I doubt you will break him of running to the rim in transition defense in time to make a difference in this series. Probably the best solution is to get Faried punishing Barnes on the offensive glass, which as you pointed out has not happened although Denver did control the paint in game 5.

    I think the Nuggets have made the correct choice in making Barnes the lowest priority. As a North Carolina fan, I just hope he starts shooting like he did in the 2012 NCAA tournament!

    • rss15

      On paper, I’d agree that Barnes is the lowest priority between Stephanie, Thompson, Jack, and him. The problem is he’s been extremely reliable from deep this series (I believe he’s shooting 46% from beyond the arc) and is playing with more confidence than the typical rookie. Allow him to get hot again through wide open looks and it could spiral out of control with the ravenous crowd behind them.

      • Old Timer

        Barnes has definitely shot well, but obviously we cannot help off of Curry. If we look at who is currently shooting worse from three it is Jack, but as we have seen with Curry, even a great shooter has bad nights. Plus Jack may be “struggling” from behind the arc (and I put quotes around struggling because his 33% is better than Denver’s team percentage in the series of 32.7%). NBA players usually see their numbers even out over a period of time. That means that Jack is due for a hot stretch from behind the arc and Barnes is due for a cold stretch. Of course, the unanswerable question is will Barnes cool of for game 6, or for game 1 of the second round because if he keeps shooting this way, Denver will have a difficult time winning tonight. I guess one ray of hope is Barnes was 0-4 in the last game at GS.

        • Ryan

          Even if the Nuggets lose the series, I’m glad we’ll be able to call him Stephanie Curry from now on…

  • Stompy

    Maybe its just me, but I learned how to properly play help side defense in HIGH SCHOOL! You never venture that far away from your man and always make sure you know where he is. This seems like basic defense to me…

    • Old Timer

      There are a lot of high school defensive principles that are lost in the NBA such as always see both the ball and your man.

      To be fair, help defense is more complicated in the NBA with the illegal defense rules. In high school and college you do not need to worry about how long you are in the lane.

      There was a fascinating article by Zach Lowe on how the new Sport VU technology can help players and coaches understand where they should be at all times. From what I have read Denver does not currently subscribe to Sport VU. I hope they do next year.

      • Native Nugget

        Good post, good link. The visual on the link is killer – future of the NBA right there.

        Mark me down as confused still. Can’t tell if Faried is wandering around because he’s saving energy/lazy (following Miller’s role modeling), too dumb to keep track, wanting to be in position for help side D, wanting to be in position for a rebound… Just doesn’t make sense leaving shooters wide open unless you are strategically tempting a poor shooter to take shots.

  • Jet

    Excellent post, as usual, Matt. So much more objectivity and analysis here. Better to come here and read about the game of basketball than the so-called “newspaper” sites. Especially the Denver Post and that clown of a tabloid-writer Kiszla.

  • Aaron

    I don’t know. . I doubt Barnes shoots like that again. . . if you throw out Game 2 where everyone including GS’s waterboy (Richard Jefferson??) hit a 3. I think we want Barnes shooting those. He’ll make a good amount. But, if it keeps Steph from entering another dimension (game 4) I”m ok with it. I think we have to start Faried, he helps our offense, and if you notice, we didn’t give up 1/2 as many offensive boards last game.

    Guys, the best 3 point shooting team in the world should still lose to the Nugs, because we work for layups. It’s just a trade-off that the 2 point shooting team will win most times. 48% From 3 doesn’t beat 75% on layups. Now, the problem is that we were giving up offensive boards as well, and Chandler could never get in a rhythm playing down low, HE SHOULD PLAY THE 3, GK!!!.

    I like our starting lineup from last game. If it gets Harrison Barnes in hero mode because he has 10 in the 1st quarter, so be it. I’d like to see Harrison beat us by himself, ala Steph.

    • Thomas

      That’s the key point, not giving up offensive boards. While we played big and Faried was at PF (first 2 and a half quarters, we gave up 5 or 6 offensive boards only and were up by 13-20. As soon as we went smallball, it was downhill from there.

      GK will play small, he always has, always does, always will. His “system” is more important than the Nuggets.

    • Reposted ESPN Comments

      You should understand that, while 48% on 3s doesn’t beat 75% on layups, the additional cost you’ll probably pay in TOs for those layups might bring your expected value down below 1.5 PPP.

      The real issue here is that if you can’t space the floor with 3 point shooting, you’re not going to hit 75% of your layups.

  • NugZeit

    I think Ill Wil and Faried can be interchangeable at the 4 – they bring different skillsets and physical tools. It really depends on who is going to bring it tonight. My preference is to start Faried at the 4, assuming he doesn’t shrink from the moment. Chandler would be a much better defender on Barnes but we should expect Faried to step up to the challenge. Then we put Chandler on Thompson, Iggy on Stephanie and Ty on JJ. If he can’t, then

    We need to do exactly what we did last game, but turn it up to 11. We need to get physical. We need to put bodies on the floor. We need to rattle these GS kids. We saw how effective that can be in Game 5.

    Finally, no more small ball, especially with Miller. Ok, so small ball can work, but you have to have athleticism at every position to make up for a size differential (or in the case of GS match their athleticism) – why can’t GK see that Miller clearly doesn’t fit this? GK thinks Miller makes up for it with passing, but that only goes so far, and is only relevant on the offensive side. It doesn’t help with defense, which GK (rightly) states generates offense.

    Please, Please, Please no Miller Time tonight – 15 mins Max. Pref 10 or less.

    Also, I want to point out that after game 1 I was saying we should matchup:
    Assuming they start:

    Then we start:

    I still think this is the optimal set of matchups – though I also think Chandler for Fournier and Faried for Chandler is a very good set of matchups for us.

    We should never go small and we should play McGee with Koufos at times (mcgee at the 4 because he’s so mobile) when the matchups allow for it (ie Bogut and Landry) and bring in Mozzy if we need to spell the bigs.

    I’m nervous about what we are going to get tonight from GK – that will determine our season right there.

    I hope we find a way to overcome, because we could go all the way to the finals now that Westbrook is out. Spurs will be very tough of course, but doable.

    Go Nuggets!

  • prospector


    We play better when MILLER, BREWER, and TY are not on the floor… PERIOD… That’s what you should be writing about… That is our biggest freaking problem by 1000 miles….

  • prospector

    *** I mean I never want to see TY, MILLER, and BREWER on the floor together at the same time….. ALso NO MORE two point guards!! ( as well as three point guards as KARL threw at us in game 5 4th qtr)

  • prospector

    FACT: KARL sucks at playoff basketball coaching…

    FACT: ANDRE MILLER at 37 years of age.. HAS NEVER, EVER, EVER won a playoff series in his ENTIRE career…

    So why the hell are we about to watch him play 27 mins tonight????

  • Legalize Denver Nuggets

    It is never acceptable to give wide open 3s, especially going into the game knowing GS is going to take a shit ton of them, but they are going to happen against us. Is that an attitude only nuggets fans have? hah. I think more than anything, Barnes getting hot is a testament to Golden States team build and the amount of confidence Barnes’s teammates have put in him throughout the season. Props to him. That being said, I think (well I hope) our guys have enough pride to not let him get away with that shit 2 games in a row. But then again I hope that mentality doesn’t get Curry, thompson, or Jack better looks. I think some defensive lapses come from young players like Faried over-thinking their roles rather than taking pride in shutting down their man. We may be having to live with these errors until the instincts of our young players improve. For now, if I were GK, I’d put developing the Nuggets defensive schemes on hold and preach winning individual defensive battles. We may not get as many steals or fast break opportunities, but I think this series is at the point where if we want the ball, we are going to need to wrestle them for it. We’ll see if Mark Jackson’s words will have the intended effects (protect Curry)- I personally think the Nuggets will bring it to them HARD for erroneously verbally disrespecting them like that. In a hard, but clean foul sort of way, of course… Whatever happens, we have some entertaining basketball ahead of us! GO NUGGETS!

  • Joshua

    All of the pressure is on Golden State tonight. We need to come out strong and keep our foot on the gas pedal. For us to win tonight we need:

    Iguodala – run the offense frequently, hit some 3’s, be aggressive at the rim. Be a leader!

    Chandler – In my opinion, he will be the most important nugget tonight. If Chandler is invisible we lose. Need him agressive as hell on offense, I hope he has a beast game.

    Ty – Just be Ty, carry us when offense goes cold, play a little better defense.

    Faried – has to be the Manimal tonight. We know we are going to sacrifice on D when he is on the court (as Matt outlined) so we need offensive rebounds and hustle plays galore. Can’t have an invisible night from him either.

    Mcgee – High intensity blocks/dunks to quiet the crowd, play pick and roll well, intimidating on D, couple put back dunks.

    Koufos – Good positioning on defense, box out/dominate boards, couple strong finishes at the rim.

    Brewer – Provide energy, don’t take too many shots, create plays on offense, active in the fast break.

    Miller – Make requests to be taken out of game, create offense, hit big shots late, try his best on D. Role player, not a “hero”.

    Fournier/Randolph – be effective, don’t make mistakes, don’t try to do too much.

    Hamilton/Stone/Qmiller/Moz – Give the starters a rest/get playoff experience while we are up 30 in the 4th.

    Love this team no matter what happens tonight!!! GO NUGGETS

  • Tom2

    This is nothing new. Faried has been a poor defender the whole season. But I think you have to live with open 3s for Barnes, because Denver’s other alternatives are even worse. When Faried’s minutes were limited earlier in the series, the Nuggets were getting killed in rebounds and physical play. Last game, Faried helped even that out. The fact that Faried, as laughable as it sounds, is now a villain in this series can only help the Nuggets as Faried will be able to draw a lot of unnecessary aggression from GS and away from more important players like Lawson. I think that’s worth the Warriors’ 4th option getting a few open looks from downtown.

  • Mark from Charlotte

    Mcgee and Koufos need to step up tonight……………

  • kush

    i just pray to God that Karl hits his head on something before the game tonight and finally realize we are not gonna win this series when he plays Miller for 10+ minutes.

    • rss15

      If Karl hits his head, it’ll probably just make him play Dre 40 minutes. I’ve resigned myself to seeing The Professor on the court for 25+. At this point I just have to hope that his defensive assignment misses a lot of jumpers and we get “good Dre” on the offensive end.

  • Paul

    What nuggets are going to show up tonight? I won’t be half as worried for game 7 as I am for tonights.

  • Stephen H

    George Karl, Corey brewer, and Andre miller must be removed this offseason and insert jj reddick, oj mayo, or Kyle korver for brewer, Eric Bledsoe or jarrett jack for miller, and anybody for George Karl.

  • KarlisGone

    So long old man.

  • doop snog

    GK, it’s been real. Your time is up here.
    If denver gets JJ Redick this offseason, we will be unstoppable (assuming we dump Andre).
    Things Id rather have than George Karl as coach: Adam Sandler, Justin Bieber, a washing machine, Peyton Manning’s jockstrap, my mother, and a potato.

  • googergieger

    Shooting is one of the issues, but not that important when considering all the other problems that can be traced specifically back to Karl. Namely, no set rotations, making it impossible for a group of guys to ever get a solid and consistent rhythm going. A defense that relied heavily on defenders like Gallo and Iggy. And his constant holding back of McGee who wasn’t given the time to get better despite how well he was playing on any given night. Did the guy play bad sometimes? Sure. Worse than Miller has? Nope. Worse than Koufos has? Nope. They still got their minutes in the regular season and in Koufos’s case first few games of the playoffs. McGee and Faried can’t play together? So are you just never going to play them together? That isn’t how you fix the problem. McGee does have some solid foot work in the post and he isn’t going to get better if you just play him eighteen minutes a game. Lots of other things as well, but kind of trying to hold back the rage really. Suffice to say he failed in the first again. Need to give someone else a shot next year.

  • googergieger

    Not even going to talk about the refs who sure gave GS the game tonight. Series shouldn’t have come down to it. Honestly probably should have had a top three seed locked by the time there was a week or two left in the regular season.

  • toluenehawk

    Hahahahahahaah Andre Miller!

  • Fed up Nug

    Fire George Karl. Nothing more even needs to be said.

  • prospector



    Masai proirities:::

    DUMP MILLER…. DUMP BREWER…. Develop or dump MOZZY….. MUST, MUST, MUST resign IGGY…. Do not go out a get us another old point guard for cheap… Cause you know damn well KARL would use the hell out of them….. MUST go into year with STONE, and TY at point….. SAVE MONEY by using JHAM, EVAN, and STONE.. USE MONEY TO pay for IGGY… It is simple math…… I know both JHAM and STONE could develop into solid players if allowed time on the floor…. What did playing BREWER and MILLER all those minutes get us??? A 1st round exit….. Nice……. I would have rathered finish as a eighth seed, and spent the season turning JHAM, EVAN, and STONE into MEN…. Kinda like GOLDEN STATE did with their youngsters…
    The problem is MASAI and JOSHY will not fire KARL…. Karl will break out his no GALLO card and blame the losses on our BIGS… Karl will spend the entire off season spending time on figuring out how to play SMALLER….. He’ll unveil his 4 point guard line up next season with Chandler at center… We’ll win 52 games and get booted out of the playoffs again due to the ANDRE MILLER JINX… Have you heard of it??? ANDRE MILLER HAS NEVER WON A PLAYOFF SERIES!!!! NEVER!!! SO WHY THE HELL IS HE ON OUR TEAM??? We need that jinxed human off our team ASAP… The problem is we’ll come into next season with KARL, MILLER, AND BREWER…. And probably without IGGY… AND that my friend will suck…… SUCK REAL BAD!!!!