Nuggets look to increase intensity as series shifts to Oakland

Denver can regain home-court advantage with victory in Game 3 on Friday
by Aaron Lopez

SAN FRANCISCO – The Denver Nuggets touched down in the Bay Area on Thursday in search of redemption.

After a disappointing performance in Game 2 against the Golden State Warriors, they will try to seize home-court advantage back from the Warriors in Game 3 Friday night at Oracle Arena.

“I don’t think we've played a good game yet,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I'm confident. My team has always responded at a high level when they've been kind of embarrassed or stepped on a little bit.”

Karl cited Denver’s response to regular-season blowouts against the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Nuggets beat the Clippers by 14 points just seven days after an uninspired Christmas Day loss in L.A. They won the final three games against Oklahoma City after losing by 20 to the Thunder on Jan. 16.

In Game 2 of their first-round playoff series, Denver gave up a season-high 131 points as Golden State shot .646 from the field. The Warriors also made 14 3-pointers, the most by an opponent in Denver’s playoff history.

“I think we were all embarrassed how we played defense,” Karl said. “Watching film two or three times, it's a mystery on some of the things we did, the thoughts and processes of what happened. I think the priorities are well established and they're getting stronger. We need a bounce-back game, especially on defense.”

The priority list for Game 3 starts with defending the 3-point shot, particularly in transition. The Nuggets also need better ball pressure and containment against Golden State point guards Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack.

Strategic adjustments aside, Karl would like to see his team play with an intensity befitting the playoffs rather than the regular season.

“Everybody has to take their matchup and responsibility to a higher level,” Karl said. “It's NBA mental toughness, perseverance, and understanding that you're in a process. The process is not easy, and it will get harder.”

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, given the unenviable task of chasing Curry around the perimeter, believes Denver is ready to counterpunch after two days of film sessions and practice.

“There’s a sense of urgency around here, especially out on the court,” he said. “The coaches get a little more fired up. We’re just trying to get everything right.

“We have nowhere to go but up from (Game 2). We definitely didn’t do anything we discussed. We just have more focus. Focus-wise, if we’re tuned in, I think we’ll have a better game.”

Karl talked about juggling his lineup for Game 3, with power forward Kenneth Faried likely to regain his starting spot after dealing with a sprained left ankle.

He would replace either Wilson Chandler or Evan Fournier. Chandler is one of Denver’s best defenders, so the logical choice would be the rookie Fournier.

As for any other potential changes, Karl smiled and remained cryptic: “I’m not telling,” he said.

In other words, tune in Friday night.