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Revisiting the Warriors' third quarter performance against the Nuggets in a Game Four win

Both Coach Nick and Mike Prada have already offered excellent breakdowns of the Golden State Warriors' 115-101 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game Four. As I gather my thoughts, here are some of the things that stood out for me.


Everybody is focusing on Steph Curry's third quarter today, or really the final 6:30 of the third quarter, for good reason: it was, for lack of a better term, magical.

But here's the thing that both Coach Nick and Mike Prada have rightly pointed out: once again, a lot of it was due to Denver mistakes - not only coaching mistakes, but costly decision making by players. And if you're a Nuggets fan, it might be even more frustrating that the Nuggets have seemingly taken on the role of reacting to what the Warriors are doing rather than dictating the action - anybody who has ever played a game of basketball knows that's a terrible position to be in.

Some notes before moving on to thinking about Game Five, which is now a must-win for Denver.

Coach Nick breaks down the Warriors' third quarter performance.

  • First, Denver just doesn't look like a good offensive team right now and as the Warrior wins keep coming and getting more convincing, it's becoming more and more apparent how much they miss Danilo Gallinari.

  • Coach Nick makes an interesting point about what happened to the Warriors when the Nuggets denied Curry the ball early in the second half: Thompson had to bring the ball upcourt and he has not been great handling the ball against the Nuggets this series. But of course, this is why having Jarrett Jack - for all of the frustrating decisions he makes - on the floor is so crucial: he gives the Warriors another ball handler. It's really difficult to deny two NBA guards. But they also doubled Curry in the first half. Sure he got five assists and set up Andrew Bogut for some nice plays, but overall the Nuggets stayed within striking distance.

  • Andre Miller on Stephen Curry just isn't working.
  • Coach Nick and Mike Prada have been harsh on Corey Brewer and he really did figure prominently into Curry's third quarter explosion; it's just really difficult to figure out what exactly he was aiming for on some of those defensive possessions. This is the one of the more egregious mistakes to me because somehow it looks like everyone focused on Carl Landry shooting a two instead of Curry standing wide open for three.

    Click here for Mike Prada's full breakdown of this play.

  • At what point do the Nuggets choose to just not help off of Curry? That made me wonder what they did in the first half, while holding Curry to just three shots. And it's interesting to note who was defending him then: Fournier, who was weirdly benched again after 6 minutes in the first quarter, and Ty Lawson. We can't really credit Fournier for much given that he only played six minutes, and it's clear why he was removed from the game: he got beaten on a drive by Curry and gave up two free throws that could've easily been a three point play situation. But when you consider the harm of going back to putting Miller on Curry and all the defensive mistakes Brewer made, why not give Fournier another chance defensively or stick Lawson back on Curry? It's not as though they'll do worse than giving up 22 points in under seven minutes. And if Fournier gives up a bunch of free throws because he's chasing Curry off the 3-point line - not a terrible idea for a team that ended up shooting 30% from 3-point range on the night - is that such a bad thing?

  • There was a lot less trapping of Curry and a lot more single coverage from Brewer and Miller in the third quarter from the Nuggets. You wonder if that's in reaction to Bogut and Ladry hurting the Nuggets in the first half.
  • A note on Ty Lawson: he has been absolutely unbelievable this series, but he's just the guy who's getting overshadowed due to Curry's brilliance right now and that's actually unfortunate for him. Coach Nick keeps coming back to the mid-range shots he's knocking down and that's just something the Warriors have to live with. What the Warriors don't want so much of is dribble penetration, which Lawson did in fact have his fair share of in Game Four.

  • Also, it's worth taking a look at the Nuggets' shot chart for that third quarter: defensively, that's a win for the Warriors.

    The Denver Nuggets third quarter shot chart against the Warriors in Game Four.

    Two of the shots at the basket were fastbreak layups. One of those shots at the bucket was the Faried runner over Bogut at the beginning of the half. Then there were another two runners by Wilson Chandler in the paint over Bogut as well as another hook shot. The breakdowns came on a few layups and a Faried dunk off of Lawson's penetration. I guess you could go either way on this: one is that the Warriors' defense is doing a pretty good job when they're turning Denver into a jump shooting team or contested runner team. The other way to look at it is that Denver just isn't playing to their strengths offensively and has to figure out how to put themselves in position to drive to the basket. Then again, to the underlying theme here of Bogut's impact on this game and series, the problem is that when they do get to the rim Warriors defenders are doing a great job of challenging.

  • Which will lead to a final bullet: the Warriors bigs are just thoroughly outplaying those of the Nuggets. We didn't know what Bogut's impact on this series would be, but it's been not only clogging up the lane but also helping the Warriors control the boards all series. And even Festus Ezeli has come in and done his thing on both ends. It has been a beautiful thing to watch for a franchise that has been starved for big men for so long.

I leave this game thinking really the same thing I did after the Warriors' Game Two win: these are all correctable mistakes by Denver. If they just literally stopped doing something things, they'd be in better position to win. That doesn't mean they would definitely win games, but they probably wouldn't be down 20 in the fourth quarter.

So this series is not really over yet, even with the Warriors up 3-1: Denver still has two games remaining at home if it goes seven games and it's feasible that they could make some rather minor adjustments in mindset to win out on the strength of a home court advantage. But as Coach Nick said, at this point it just doesn't seem likely: they've had three games to figure things out without David Lee on the floor and just haven't. Right now, they're a team that looks defeated and reacting to their opponent rather than forcing their opponent to respond to them. You just don't win that many basketball games from that position.

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