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NBA Playoff Preview - Denver vs. Golden State

8:45 AM, Apr 19, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - If up-tempo, high-scoring basketball is your wish, then the first-round playoff series out west between the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors might appeal to sensibilities.

The Nuggets led the NBA in scoring and the Warriors were seventh. Neither team finished in the top 18 in opponents scoring, so points will be aplenty.

Denver set a franchise record with its 57 victories and a 38-3 mark at the Pepsi Center, which was the best home record in the NBA this season.

"First of all, I would like to thank our fans," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I think we have some of the best fans this year, and we stole some games here at home because their intensity matches our players' intensity."

The Nuggets score and score and score, but they could be in some jeopardy due to injuries.

Danilo Gallinari, the team's second-leading scorer, tore his ACL in the last month and is gone.

Ty Lawson, the lightning quick point guard and catalyst for the offense, had a foot injury, but played in the final games of the regular season.

Kenneth Faried did not. He sprained an ankle and his availability is in question this series.

That's a lot for a team to overcome, but the Nuggets play a system predicated on ball movement, fast-breaking and great shooting.

And, the Nuggets enter the postseason the winners of eight of their last nine games.

The Warriors made the postseason for the first time since the 2006-07 season when they upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round as an eight seed.

The strength of Golden State this season lies squarely on the young shoulders of point guard Steph Curry. Passed over for an All-Star berth, Curry set an NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a season with 272, breaking Ray Allen's mark of 269.

"It's special. I grew up watching Ray Allen shoot in shooting drills when he played with my dad in Milwaukee," said Curry. "I have an appreciation for how well he shot the ball in his career, and especially that one season."

The Warriors have been an up-and-down team all season, but they started the season as a playoff team and maintained that status. It has been a positive campaign for the Warriors.

MATCHUPS:

BACKCOURT: Curry is the league's best shooter. There are statistics and eyeballs to back that claim. He is the best kind of shooter in that he has a quick release, can shoot off the dribble, can nail it coming off pick and rolls and any other conceivable scenario. Now, he also has a spot in the record book to back it up.

"It's obviously a reflection of Steph's greatness," said Warriors coach Mark Jackson. "It's a lot of hard work, dedication, commitment, guys getting him open and executing plays."

Klay Thompson bumped his scoring by four points a game and shoots 40 percent from 3-point range.

Lawson turned into perhaps the fastest player in the NBA baseline-to-baseline. Career-highs in points and assists offset a career-low shooting year, but when Lawson turned his game around after a rough start, the fortunes of the Nuggets turned. Andre Iguodala is a perfect fit in this system. He is asked to defend as always, but streaking to the hoop for easy buckets is what Iguodala was put on this Earth to do.

EDGE: NUGGETS (slightly)

FRONTCOURT: David Lee made the All-Star team and led the NBA with 56 double- doubles, which was eight more than L.A.'s Dwight Howard in second. Harrison Barnes is a rookie who played admirably, but didn't shake the Earth and the center spot was supposed to be manned by Andrew Bogut, but the Aussie has battled nagging injuries. He did play in the season finale.

Faried is one of the most dynamic bigs in the league. He is the only Nugget with more than a fleeting interest in defense and rebounding. The Gallinari injury hurt the Nuggets, but Wilson Chandler averaged 20.1 ppg over the last six of the season. Kosta Koufos is their center and not much of a scorer or rebounder.

EDGE: WARRIORS

BENCH: The Warriors finished 19th in bench scoring, but boast a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Jarrett Jack. He averaged almost 13 ppg and Carl Landry is a fringe award possibility. After those two, there isn't much more.

The Nuggets were second in the league in bench scoring. Chandler came off the pine most of the season and Andre Miller is just a strong, capable NBA point guard. Corey Brewer averaged double figures as a reserve and JaVale McGee scored 9.1 ppg. This group is as strong a unit as there is in the league and they need to be with Denver playing such a frenetic pace.

EDGE: NUGGETS

COACHING: Jackson did an admirable job this season bringing the Warriors back into relativity again. He's got a solid rotation down pat.

Karl is a Coach of the Year candidate and one of the best in the league. He is playoff-tested and been to the NBA Finals twice while at the helm of the Seattle Sonics.

EDGE: NUGGETS

PREDICTION: This matchup looks more intriguing than it is. The Nuggets are unstoppable at home and more than capable of winning once in Oakland, which they did earlier this season.

The Warriors can win a game or two, but aren't a real threat in this series. Curry and Thompson are unproven in the postseason and Denver is a better scoring team.

SPORTS NETWORK PREDICTION: NUGGETS in 5.

The Sports Network

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