Preview: Denver Nuggets face resurgent Golden State Warriors at Ball Arena

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets (5-6) ended a promising East Coast road trip on a bitter note, squandering an 18-point lead en route to a 122-116 defeat against the Nets in Brooklyn Tuesday. With the Golden State Warriors (6-5) in town Thursday, Denver will hope to correct the issues that prevented it from going undefeated out east.

The Warriors might be one game over .500, but they have been a better team in 2021 than they were in 2020. Golden State had the worst net rating in the NBA in December at -12.2. The team might be 3-2 in its last five games, but it has the ninth-best net rating at 5.1 in that span. The rising chemistry of the Warriors, which has some new faces since the team’s glory days, has played a part in that ascension. In December, Golden State was 27th in assists at 21.5 per game. This month, that number has spiked up to 26.9 dimes per game (tied for seventh with the Nuggets). Fans of offense will love this matchup as the Nuggets with their No. 2-ranked offense takes on a sheer attacking force in Steph Curry.

Game on.

Projected starters: Jamal Murray, P.J. Dozier, Will Barton III, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokić

INJURY REPORT:

QUESTIONABLE:

Gary Harris, Personal Reasons

NOT WITH TEAM:

Michael Porter Jr., Health and Safety Protocol

OUT:

Greg Whittington, Left Knee Sprain

TUNE IN: 8 p.m. MT, TNT

Here are the storylines to watch for:

Key matchup: Jamal Murray vs. Stephen Curry

Jamal Murray is often compared to Stephen Curry due to his shooting prowess and he has an opportunity to show out against arguably the best shooter in NBA history.

It’s been an inconsistent start for the Nuggets’ lead guard as he’s averaging a career-high 19.5 points, but has been putting up 15.4 per contest in his last five games. The 23-year-old showed some bounce back in the Nuggets’ loss to the Nets, dropping 20 points and four assists in Brooklyn. Denver will need Murray to build on that performance, especially considering that Gary Harris is currently listed as questionable against the Warriors.

Curry enters the matchup as the No. 3 scorer in the league, putting up 27.8 points per game. What is even scarier is he’s still not all the way back from the injury that sidelined him for all but five games last season. Curry, a career 43.3 percent shooter from three, is converting at a 36.9 percent clip this season. His field-goal percentage is also down as he’s hitting at 43 percent. When he gets going though, as he did against Portland on Jan. 3 with 62 points, he’s as unplayable as any top star in the league. The Nuggets will likely start with Murray on Curry, but Will Barton III, P.J. Dozier, and possibly Facundo Campazzo could be in the mix to defend him.

Gritty battle ahead

The Warriors aren’t the offensive juggernauts of their heyday, but they remain a solid defensive team that excels at protecting the rim.
Golden State ranks fifth in the NBA in blocked shots at 6.3 per game and seventh in opponent points in the paint at 42.5. No. 2 pick James Wiseman has been a boost in those areas, as the rookie is averaging 10.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 20.7 minutes per game. Three-point shooting and offensive rebounding will be key for Michael Malone’s team.

The Warriors are 26th in defending shots from downtown, allowing their opponents to convert at 39.1 percent. Although the Nuggets are an average three-point shooting team, ranking 15th in made threes per game (13.0), they should look to attack from that range from tip-off.

Battling for offensive boards and second-chance points will also be critical. Golden State gives up 14.9 points per game (28th) in that area.

Defend the passing lanes

The Warriors are one of the better passing teams in the NBA, but they also give away a ton of points due to turnovers.

Golden State currently averages 14.6 turnovers per game and is allowing teams to score 20.2 points per game off those turnovers (26th). With the Nuggets currently ranked at 10th in steals at 8.4, this could play to their strengths.

Nikola Jokić has surprisingly led the charge for Denver, leading the group with 1.8 takeaways per game. He’s coming off of career night in that respect, stealing the ball seven times – a personal best. Barton III has also played a role, averaging 1.2 steals. Being aggressive in that area could pay dividends.

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