Game Preview: Nuggets Wrap Up Road Trip Against Warriors
The Nuggets bounced back in a major way on Wednesday night, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 115-99 while never trailing in the game. Denver (43-21) used efficient ball movement and a big advantage on the boards to leave Los Angeles with a win and snap a three-game losing streak.
Now, the Nuggets will conclude their road trip with a clash against the Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors. The Warriors (44-20) have a one-game lead over Denver in the standings, making this matchup important for both teams as they battle for the number one seed in the conference.
Golden State has struggled with consistency in recent weeks, going just 3-4 since the All-Star break. As the Warriors prepare for the playoffs, the focus is on fully integrating DeMarcus Cousins into the rotation and the team’s style of play. Cousins is averaging 15.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in 17 appearances this season. This will be the first time Denver has matched up against the six-time All-Star since Dec. 15, 2017.
The two teams split the first two matchups in this four-game season series. Denver squeezed out a win back in late October as Juancho Hernangómez made a game-winning block on Damian Jones in the final seconds. The Warriors responded with a win in the next game between the two teams in mid-January, scoring 142 points on the back of strong shooting and ball movement.
The final two games in the series are road games for Denver. Since Michael Malone took over as head coach for the Nuggets, Denver is 1-4 on the road against the Warriors. The two teams have split the last six games, demonstrating the back-and-forth nature of this matchup.
Here are some keys to tonight's game:
The starting five continues to thrive: Against the Lakers on Wednesday night, Denver’s starting five of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokić were +26 in 30 minutes of action. That is nothing new for the lineup, as it is +91 for the season. Unfortunately, injuries have deprived Michael Malone of the opportunity to ride this starting lineup, as it has only seen 122 minutes of game action on the season. Look for the starters to continue to lead the way for Denver as the bench unit continues to get comfortable.
Focusing on ball movement: When Denver snapped their three-game losing streak on Wednesday, they utilized a heavy dose of ball movement to generate quality offense. The Nuggets finished with 33 assists in the game, which continues a trend of success when the ball is moving around the court. Denver is 30-11 this season when they have at least 27 assists in a game, highlighting how important consistent ball movement is for their offense.
Gary Harris rounding into form: As Harris continues to get back into a rhythm in the starting lineup, his performance against the Lakers was very encouraging for Denver. With 11 points in the fourth quarter (and 19 in the game overall), Harris put the team on his back to get the win. Michael Malone was very excited about Harris’ performance, stating “I think this is going to be great for Gary, just to get his confidence and rhythm back, because he’s a big part of what we do.” Harris provides another element for Denver’s starting lineup as a two-way player that can excel and score in a variety of ways while playing tough, physical defense.