Andy Liu already did a great job of previewing the Golden State Warriors first round playoff matchup against the Denver Nuggets from a GSoM point of view. But to get a sense of how opposing fans are seeing things I contacted Nate Timmons of SB Nation's Denver Stiffs to see if there were any additional keys to the series that we could extract from his insight.
As it turns there's a lot of overlap in how we all see things and a few Denver weaknesses that the Warriors can exploit to win this series.
Playoff Q&A with Denver Stiffs
1. GSoM: I'll allow you to hold off on a prediction for now. But are Nuggets fans shaking in their boots yet? Or are you laughing hysterically, tears are streaming from their eyes? Or...just...sort of calmly pondering things?
Nate Timmons: I think Nuggets fans are confident in the team and I don't think anyone is taking the Warriors lightly. Golden State is a good team that had a fine season and could win the series if things broke right for them, but the Nuggets won 57 games for a reason and they should handle Golden State and move on to round two. I said this in our preview on Denver Stiffs, but I used to look for upsets when Denver was a No. 6 seed and then my heart would break when the games were played.
2. GSoM: Something that's been a topic of conversation around our site is the issue of altitude. People are wondering about whether the team should get there early to acclimate, whether the first game is already lost, or if it really matters at all. But help us Californians out: how much does the altitude influence a series and is there any special that teams prepare for it?
NT: Coloradans always have to help out you Californians ... especially on the slopes! That's the first of many awful jokes I hope to work into this Q&A.
I've talked with many of the Nuggets players about the altitude factor and they say that they hear a lot from guys coming in for games about how it affects them. The theory is to arrive in Denver a couple days beforehand, but with the conditioning these guys are in, you usually hear that things (e.g. catching your breath) are back to normal sometime during the second quarter.
I have never spent significant time away from Colorado (exciting, I know) so I don't really know the effects personally. I have been told by people not from Colorado than when they leave for a week or two and come back that it takes a day or two to get used to the thin air again.
Should the altitude affect the series? It may give Denver a slight advantage for a brief time in Game 1 and again in Game 5, but that's it. I haven't heard of anything special teams do, aside from trying to get hear earlier than usual. Oxygen tanks on the bench? Is that allowed?!?
3. GSoM: I saw a report the other day that I just had to verify with you for accuracy: "Anthony Randolph led the team in rebounds Wednesday with 14." Is this a sign of the coming Apocalypse or has Anthony Randolph finally become the productive contributor we were all waiting for him to become? How do you think he might impact this series?
This also happened recently.
NT: Randolph and JaVale McGee each have the ability to do a little something extra on the court with their talent. The task for the Nuggets coaching staff has been to reel them in and get them to play within themselves.
In talking with Randolph, he understands that the team doesn't want him to look for his own offense - they want him to run the floor, set screens, hit the glass, and defend the paint. By doing those things, he gets easy buckets off put backs and when he cuts to the rim (after a screen) the guards and wings will find him for easy looks.
Early in the season, when he got into the game he'd try to go coast-to-coast when he got defensive boards, he tried shooting threes and long jumpers, and just wasn't sticking to the fundamental things the coaches wanted out of him. But he's doing that now and he's playing really well. Even if Kenneth Faried is able to play, I think Karl will play Randolph a bit - he has earned it (he still needs more work on the defensive glass though).
4. GSoM: Obviously the more significant story people have been thinking about with the Nuggets is related to injury. Gallinari averaged more points (20 ppg) and rebounds (7.8) in four games against the Warriors this season than any team in the Western Conference Playoffs (and really all but a few teams league-wide). How much has his absence affected the Nuggets and how might it affect this series specifically?
NT: Being able to plug in Wilson Chandler has been a godsend for the Karl. But the big X-factor could be Evan Fournier, who has been starting recently at the shooting guard spot. Where the Nuggets miss Gallo the most is during crunch-time. Karl loved using Gallo at the power forward spot late and his post-defense and rebounding was great. And offensively, he was a go-to option for late shots (you guys know that) and is the team's best free throw shooter (and knew how to get to the line when the team needed it).
He'll be missed most in crunch-time for his all around game, but Denver has done such a brilliant job that some fans have been asking, "So, when can we trade Gallo?" It gets a little nutty in Nuggets Nation - reference back to that thin air ...
5. GSoM: Faried is one of my favorite players to watch and he has been reported as "hopeful" for game one. We all know he's a monster on the boards and just generally non-stop energy, but are there ways that his game has progressed in his second year that might affect this series differently than the early season matchup?
NT: Faried is awesome to watch; simple as that. In my preview I wrote that Carl Landry is a guy that Faried should look to become with his jumper as he's still not effective outside the paint.
As to this series, a lot of folks think David Lee is a nightmare match-up for Faried and his hit-and-miss defense. Kenneth can get lost on defense and Lee's 23.3 points per game against Denver came largely against him. I do think Faried is looking forward to the challenge of playing Lee, but the biggest strength for the Manimal is still on the glass. Denver will miss that, a lot if he's not there or if he's not able to be his usual self.
I also think you have to take into account how he runs the floor and can inflate the home-crowd with breathtaking alley-oops and deflate an opposition's crowd with the same plays. He gets Denver 6-8 easy points a game just by running the floor.
6. GSoM: Something else we've discussed among ourselves is that the last time these two teams played was January 13 and three of the four meetings were played in November. In what ways might the Nuggets have changed/grown/regressed since those early season games that might affect this series?
NT: The Nuggets defense is MUCH improved from those games. Denver does a tremendous job of deflecting passes, especially anything that tries to cut through the defense. Ty Lawson also was playing some of his worst basketball during the beginning of the season - even though he averaged 16 points against the Warriors, he shot just 39-percent in those games. Lawson has developed into the team's MVP and is just nowhere near the player he was at the beginning of the year.
Also, another X-factor is JaVale McGee. He is totally hit-and-miss, but he has been looking much improved the past couple weeks and is playing focused basketball. If he has a big series, the Warriors could be in major trouble.
7. GSoM: Is there a Nuggets weakness that you fear the Warriors might be able to exploit?
NT: DEFENDING THE THREE POINT LINE! This scares the living ... you know what out of every Nuggets fan. The team loves to gamble and sink into the paint on drives and leaves the perimeter wide open. The recovery is excellent some nights and non-existent on others. The biggest fear for me is that the Warriors will be able to stay in games because of their shooting.
Oh, and people are nervous that 37 year-old Andre Miller is being misused late in games and could cause the collapse of the team if that match-up is exploited. Miller can be a very lazy defender and that needs to change in the post-season - perhaps he has been saving up his defensive energy for the playoffs, we'll see.
I do think this will be a fun series and a fast paced series. The Nuggets have a way of making teams run with them and that plays right into what Karl likes to see out of his squad. And Denver loves to run, Iguodala especially, Lawson especially, Corey Brewer especially, Chandler especially, McGee especially, and Faried especially.
For more on the Warriors' playoff run, check out our 2013 NBA Playoff section.