Preview: Denver Nuggets look to continue winning ways vs. Warriors

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

As the Denver Nuggets look to push their winning streak to five games Friday, they will have to go through some familiar faces in the Golden State Warriors, who defeated Denver less than two weeks ago at Chase Center.

In that 116-107 loss on April 12, Denver lost Jamal Murray for the season with a left knee injury, but the Nuggets have responded to that adversity as they typically do… by winning games.

Denver (38-20) hasn’t lost since that game, building a four-game winning streak which has continued this week with some nail-biting victories over Western Conference playoff teams in the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers.

MORE: Takeaways from win over Trail Blazers

Golden State (29-30) has been surging in recent weeks, led by incredible performances from Stephen Curry. Although Curry cooled off in Wednesday’s loss to the Washington Wizards, the two-time MVP had games of 53, 42, 47, and 49 over the past two weeks.

However, it has been defense that has been the driving force for Golden State, as the Warriors own the league’s top-ranked defense over the past two weeks, a stretch in which they have gone 5-3.

Projected starters: Facundo Campazzo, Will Barton III, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokić

Injury report:

JAMAL MURRAY – LEFT ACL INJURY. OUT.

MONTE MORRIS – RIGHT HAMSTRING STRAIN. OUT.

TUNE-IN: 8 p.m. MT, ESPN and 92.5FM

Key matchup: Aaron Gordon vs. Draymond Green

As is often the case with Green, his impact goes beyond the box score. As a key anchor of the Warriors’ defense and a cog in the offensive machine through his playmaking abilities, Green is a difference-maker for Golden State on both ends of the floor.

Over the last 10 games, Green averaged 8.0 points, 8.9 assists, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.5 steals per game, showcasing his ability to do a little bit of everything for the Warriors. Therefore, it’s no surprise to discover that Golden State has been 13.1 points per 100 possessions better with the 31-year-old forward on the floor this season.

Green’s primary task on Friday will be to match up with Denver’s starting frontcourt, specifically Aaron Gordon, who continues to search for his rhythm in a Nuggets uniform.

Gordon has scored in double-figures in two of the past five games, though he has chipped in with three assists in four of those five games. Gordon is capable of exploiting mismatches and creating opportunities for others, which Denver will certainly need down the stretch run without Murray. An opportunity to match up against Green could bring out the best in Denver’s prized trade deadline acquisition.

Attack the glass

This Warriors team has clear strengths and weaknesses. One of those weaknesses should play right into Denver’s hands.

Ranking 30th in offensive rebound percentage and 24th in opponent offensive rebound percentage, Golden State is certainly vulnerable on the glass.

The Nuggets are the premier offensive rebounding teams in the league this season, ranking first in offensive rebound percentage (29.2 percent). On the other end of the floor, Denver has been an above-average defensive rebounding team so far this season, ranking 11th in opponent offensive rebound percentage.

In that first meeting back in January, Denver won the rebounding battle 50-43, which included doubling up the Warriors on the offensive glass 10-5. In the second meeting, the Nuggets had a smaller 41-36 advantage on the glass.

If the Nuggets can repeat those rebounding performances Friday, they’ll have a good chance at extending the winning streak.

Defend the 3-point line

This key to the game begins with Steph Curry. The 33-year-old guard is averaging 14.3 3-point attempts per game in April, knocking down 6.7 triples per game (a 47.1 percent conversion rate).

As a team, Golden State has emphasized the 3-point line even more as of late. Since April 12, the Warriors rank third in the league in 3-point attempts per game at 42.3, while they rank fourth at 41.3 percent on those shots.

Although Golden State hasn’t been a truly elite 3-point shooting team this season (37.6 percent, which ranks 14th in the league), Denver must be focused on limiting attempts from downtown.

38.1 percent of opponent shot attempts have come from beyond the arc against the Nuggets this season, which places Denver 23rd in that aspect defensively. Although teams haven’t shot lights out on those shots against the Nuggets this season (36.9 percent, slightly below league average), you don’t want to give up quality looks to a team led by Stephen Curry.

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