Nuggets vs. Warriors Game 2 Preview: Will Golden State's Guards Continue to Dominate?

Action Network betting analyst Raheem Palmer previews Game 2 of the Nugget-Warriors series, including his betting pick.

Nuggets vs. Warriors Odds

Nuggets Odds +7.5
Warriors Odds -7.5
Over/Under 223.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Golden State Warriors opened the first NBA Playoff game at Chase Center in style, taking the first step towards making title run with a 123-107 win over the Denver Nuggets to take a 1-0 series lead.

Dating back to the days of Oracle Arena, the Warriors have now won a record 12 straight Game 1s at home. Now, they look to take a commanding 2-0 lead before the series shifts to Denver.

There’s been a slight adjustment to the spread after Game 1 with oddsmakers opening the Game 2 line a full point above the 6.5-point closing line in Saturday’s series opener.

We’ve all heard the saying that a series doesn’t start until the road team wins a game. Will that be today or will the Warriors continue their home dominance?

Let’s analyze both sides and find out!

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Nikola Jokic Needs More From Nuggets Teammates

Nikola Jokic is likely going to win his second consecutive MVP, but he wasn’t his dominant self Saturday. On the surface, a stat line of 25 points, 10 rebounds, six assists looks great until you see he needed 25 shots to score 25 points while shooting 0-of-4 from behind the arc.

Although we can expect Jokic to play better, a big part of his inefficient night was caused by how much the Warriors made him work on defense, specifically making him defend in space.

Without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr the Nuggets simply don’t have much fire power outside of their star. Will Barton scored 24 points, but no other Nuggets role player scored more than 10. That won’t cut it against the Warriors who had five players in double figures and Stephen Curry coming off the bench in a reduce role with his minutes restriction.

The Nuggets shot 31.4% from behind the arc and a big part of that was the Warriors’ decision to guard Jokic one-on-one. Jokic’s impacted on the game is predicated on his tremendous passing ability and taking that away while making him shoot more often worked well in the Warriors favor.

Jokic’s 25 attempts were the seventh-most he’s taken throughout his playoff career. Despite this, the Nuggets shot just 20% at the rim and got to the line just 13 times, which is a vast departure from what we’ve seen in the regular season in which they ranked 11th in Free Throw Rate (18.5%).

Even beyond the offensive struggles, the Nuggets’ real issues came on defense, allowing a whopping 129.4 points per 100 possessions. They sent the Warriors to the free throw line 29 times and were dominated on the boards, 41-35.

Austin Rivers may be their best candidate to defend Curry, but with Jordan Poole and Curry playing together, the Nuggets may not have the personnel to contain them.

Some of the Nuggets issues are fixable — Jokic should play better, the Nuggets should rebound better and get to the line more — but they could be drawing dead based on their lack of firepower and inability to slow down this Warriors offense.

Warriors Guards Are Dominating Matchups

Although Curry returned to the lineup on Saturday night, he took a backseat Poole who scored 30 points on 9-of-13 shooting including a 14-point second quarter.

The Warriors have an advantage in guard play in this series as Klay Thompson added 19 points on 5-of-10 from behind the arc. Despite Curry playing just 21 minutes and coming off the bench, the Warriors shot 45.7% from behind the arc. With his minutes restriction, Curry scored 16 points shooting 3-of-6on 3s and we got to see just how good this offense can be when they’re healthy.

While Curry and Poole were staggered for much of the game, Kerr played a three guard lineup featuring Curry, Poole and Thompson along with Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, which could be the new reincarnation of the famed Death Lineup from their past title teams.

They took control of the game in the second quarter. Down 43-40, the Warriors went on an 18-4 run to take a 58-47 lead into the half. This unit put up an Offensive Rating of 166.7 and a Defensive Rating of 60.0, outscoring the Nuggets by a whopping 106.7 points per 100 possessions in 12 minutes. 

The Curry-Poole-Thompson combo had similar success during the regular season, so we should expect, as Curry’s minutes restriction wanes, the Warriors to continue to exploit Nuggets’ inability to defend elite guards. The Warriors ended the game with 116 points scoring 1.34 points per possession and it feels like we haven’t reached the tip of the iceberg for what they’re truly capable of yet with Thompson, Curry and Green in and out of the lineup.

Despite how great the offense looks, the Warriors have always won with defense and that starts and ends with Green. Although Jokic will get his, if the Warriors can continue to make him work for it while slowing down the rest of the supporting cast, they should have no problem sending this series to Denver up 2-0.

Nuggets-Warriors Pick

The Nuggets have been resilient in the Jokic era, winning games with their backs against the wall. They’ve won four playoff series after losing Game 1 and famously came back from 1-3 deficits against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers in 2020.

However, this version of the Nuggets is not the same team that made all those miraculous comebacks, I’m not sure they have enough in the tank at this point. The Nuggets look exhausted after a full season of playing shorthanded and there’s only so much Jokic can do on his own.

With the Nuggets struggling to defend the Warriors and a lack of fire power, they could be drawing dead especially when you consider that Curry is still working on a minutes restriction and it’s a matter of time before we see him playing at an MVP level.

Lay the 7 points with the Warriors as they should take a 2-0 lead back to Denver.

Pick: Warriors -7 (-110)