Up next: The defending champions.
The Nuggets, winners of four of their last five games, get a swing against the suddenly surging Golden State Warriors. Golden State has won five of their last six games, including its last contest, at San Antonio.
The Nuggets, however, have beaten the Warriors in 19 of the last 25 games played in Denver, including a 132-110 blowout on Feb. 13 last season. They come into the game with some momentum after rallying to beat Miami on Friday night.
“I’m glad we got this (win),” Nuggets forward Paul Millsap said. “Our confidence is up, we’re playing really good basketball defensively and offensively. So (Saturday night) should be a good game for us. It’s a good challenge for us.”
What do the Nuggets need to do to win? Start with these things…
Pick up the ball: Golden State is the best team in transition, averaging 1.305 points per possession on the break. They are difficult to stop, but the first thing the Nuggets can do is at least delay the break long enough to get their defense set. And the only way to get that done is to stop the ball in transition. Yes, it’s easier said than done. All five Golden State players run on nearly every fast break opportunity, and many different Warriors can push the ball.
Win the timeouts: Plays run after timeouts that score points are akin to hidden yards in special teams in football. If you win on each timeout and collect those “extra” points, it keeps you in contact or in the lead, and that is important against a powerful offensive team like Golden State.
Watch Out For…
– The Nuggets energy level, which is in question after being pushed to the limit on Friday night in a win over Miami. Working in the Nuggets’ favor were the relatively light minutes played by Jamal Murray (20), Mason Plumlee (11), Malik Beasley (9), and Kenneth Faried (5). In the Nuggets’ last back-to-back situation, at Brooklyn and New York, players who did not play or had few minutes in the first game played much more in the second. Faried has been good against the Warriors in the past. Look for much more of him on the court on Saturday night.
– Golden State’s “Death Lineup,” which takes small ball to the next level. But, it has sloshed out of the gate this season, shooting 30.4 percent from the 3-point line and allowing 111.3 points per 100 possessions. Still, the lineup: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green is the NBA’s most versatile, effective and efficient quintet. All five can handle, pass and shoot the ball. And, spearheaded by Green, Iguodala and Thompson, all five can defend as well. The Nuggets have handled this lineup well in the past. Can they do it again on Saturday?
– A double-digit deficit, which isn’t as safe as it may seem. Golden State has three victories this season in games in which they trailed by at least 15 points, including their last win – 112-92 over San Antonio. The Warriors trailed by 19 points in the first quarter of that game before rallying to win.
INJURY REPORT: Juancho Hernangomez (mononucleosis) is out of the game.
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.