Marlowe Blog: Nuggets still good enough to win the West
Mapping out the path for Denver to reach the NBA Finals
The Denver Nuggets can win the West.
There, I said it. You heard it, and that’s all there is to it.
Even with forward Danilo Gallinari out for the season, opportunity knocks for the Mile High Crew.
How? Let’s examine some playoff scenarios for the hometown team.
Say the Nuggets finish as the No. 3 seed in the West and matchup with the No. 6 Golden State Warriors.
Denver would have home court – the best home-court advantage in the NBA. Plus, they have confidence playing the Warriors, as evidenced by winning the season series 3-1.
Golden State has no answer for the Nuggets inside game, which leads the NBA in points in the paint.
Next scenario: Nuggets play the Houston Rockets in the 3-6 matchup.
Bring it on!
This past Saturday night, Denver torched the Rockets 132-114 to complete a 4-0-season series sweep.
Andre Iguodala is James Harden’s worst nightmare, holding “the Beard” to 18.3 points – 7.7 below his season average – in the four meetings. Harden has shot .380 from the field (.190 from 3-point range) and committed 22 turnovers.
The young Rockets just don’t have enough to beat the Nuggets.
Scenario No. 3: Nuggets finish fifth and play the fourth-place Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.
If the Nuggets finish with a better record, they would still would have home court against the higher-seeded Clips.
I believe that that Nuggets coach George Karl and his staff have figured out the Clippers, beating them two of three times this season. They can slow down Chris Paul with Iguodala, and shut off “Lob City” by racing back on defense and fouling Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan every chance they get.
Finally, the Nuggets could finish fourth or fifth and take on the Memphis Grizzlies. In my opinion, this would be the toughest first-round encounter.
Home-court advantage would be important in this series but not crucial.
Nuggets won three of the four games played this season, including a big one on Beale Street.
The Griz are very good and have mountain men bigs Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. However, they don’t have Rudy Gay or OJ Mayo, who used light up the Nuggets.
Good guys would win in a tough 6- or 7-game series.
So in my game plan, the Nuggets advance out of the first round into the Western Conference semi-finals, where they will most likely face either the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Let’s say they get the Spurs. San Antonio would have the home-court advantage, which would be important, but not a deal-breaker.
The Spurs have injury concerns of their own, with its top two playmakers Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker banged up. The young, energetic Nuggets would rely on Ty Lawson and speed to run the veteran Spurs ragged.
It would be a changing of the guard.
Finally, a matchup with the Thunder, which won the West last season.
Folks, OKC isn’t the same team it was a year ago.
The loss of Harden has reduced the Thunder to a two-man crew, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Granted, Durant and Westbrook are two special players, but the Nuggets beat the Thunder three out of four this season using a nine-man rotation.
In my opinion, nine beats two and “teamness” overwhelms superstars in the playoffs for the first time ever.
Denver wins the West. Karl and the Nuggets have the last laugh.
Bring on Miami.
Chris Marlowe is in his ninth year as the play-by-play voice for the Nuggets on Altitude. He is a longtime broadcaster who also served as the captain of the gold media-winning U.S. Olympic volleyball team in 1984.