After months of ups and downs, the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets will finally begin their postseason campaign as they go head-to-head in the Western Conference’s playoffs as the third and sixth seed, respectively.
However, if there’s one thing about these teams more than anything, it’s the ample time to rest and prepare. Both teams suffered devastating losses this season due to injuries and unavailability. The Warriors’ Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson were in and out of the rotation at different points of the season, while the Nuggets’ Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. have yet to suit up since suffering season-ending injuries last year.
Both will enjoy a five-day break, which is the longest time off the two teams have had since All-Star Weekend. For the Warriors and the Nuggets—two teams who have struggled to stay healthy all season long—any time off the court is crucial for their recovery.
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If you look at the pieces both teams have, the Warriors have a clear advantage over the Nuggets because they’ll have three of their best players on the floor. But it’s not that simple.
Stephen Curry is expected to return for the first game of the Warriors-Nuggets matchup. However, Golden State may impose a minutes restriction on him as he’s coming off of a sprained ligament on his left foot, which sidelined him for a month (12 games).
Draymond Green is in a similar situation but on an earlier timeline. He has returned but is still trying to find his groove since the injury. If anything, Klay Thompson is the only one who is showing signs of improvement after not seeing the floor for two years.
The three have only played together for 11 minutes this season, so they’ll rely a lot on their previous years of experience instead of momentum from the regular season.
Then there’s Nikola Jokic who is the only reason the Nuggets even have a postseason campaign, to begin with. This is the perfect starting point for the big man as he’s going up against a team that does not have that dominant force in the middle. There’s an expectation for Jokic to exploit the Warriors’ interior weaknesses.
But Denver doesn’t need to worry that much because this isn’t the first time Jokic will fly solo in the postseason. The Joker is also riding on momentum after averaging 38.0 points, 17.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in April.
The battle between the Warriors’ Big 3 and the MVP candidate should be an interesting one.
Golden State seems to have hacked the NBA Draft or something with the number of scoring machines they have on their roster is outrageous. One of those guys is Jordan Poole.
Poole went from a seasoned bench warmer to becoming a legitimate scoring option in a blink of an eye. This guy has no fear as he averages 18.5 points on 44.8 percent from the field. He is often overlooked as he sits below the shadow of the Splash Brothers, but Poole has improved drastically this season. He developed an ability to create shots for himself and increased his consistency, making him a critical piece in the Warriors’ playoff run.
For Denver, while Jokic is expected to create on the offensive end, the responsibility of locking it down on defense falls on the shoulders of Aaron Gordon. Since his pairing with Jokic, Gordon has played one of the best seasons in his career.
Head coach Mike Malone often assigns Gordon to defend their opponents’ best offensive player on the perimeter. And against a team full of shooters, Gordon’s defensive specialization will play a crucial part in the series.
Given how these two teams play and how excellent they are on offense, the real battle will be on defense.
The Warriors' focus should be on stopping the man in the middle. Everything on the Nuggets’ offensive end runs through Jokic. If they can pull the plug and limit the Joker’s productivity, then Denver could suffer a collapse considering their lack of reinforcements.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets should stop the Warriors as early as they can. Golden State thrives off of rhythm, so they need to be disrupted as quickly as possible. If Denver can limit their productivity as soon as the buzzer goes off, then the Warriors might not have enough to get them going.