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Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets Game Five preview: Up 3-1 and rising

After winning three straight games, the Warriors return to Denver up 3-1 with an opportunity to close out the series.


Golden State Warriors (3-1) vs. Denver Nuggets (1-3)

5 p.m. PST

Pepsi Center - Denver, CO

TV: TNT/CSNBA | Radio: KNBR 1050

Blog buddy: Denver Stiffs

I still really can't even believe we're having this conversation, but the Golden State Warriors are up 3-1 in a playoff series and have an opportunity to close out the Denver Nuggets with a win tonight.

To all of you out there that predicted Warriors in 5: congratulations! But I really didn't see this coming at all and now I'm just enjoying the ride.

But I want the first leg of the ride to end tonight: the Nuggets look like a team completely disoriented, when not disinterested, and I'd rather that the Warriors just end their season before they can figure anything out.

Those of us in the GSoM crew who were at the Game Four had this discussion as we were leaving Oracle the other night and it's hard in that moment not to agree with the counter-perspective: it would be great to have one more game at Oracle with the opportunity to close out a series before moving on the face the Spurs. Trust me, after feeling the atmosphere this weekend I feel that. But as a Warriors fan who still doesn't quite believe this is happening, I also just want to advance ASAP.

Yet that's not really important: the series will be decided on the court one way or another and, right now, the Warriors just seem to be in the Nuggets' heads. They haven't figured out how to stop the Warriors with any consistency on defense and their offense just looks discombobulated - they could leverage home court advantage to extend this series tonight, but the flaws just seem to be getting increasingly glaring.

What is important to me as we cautiously look ahead in the postseason is that it's reasonable to think that the Warriors are still in the process of finding their rhythm without David Lee: we probably saw the ceiling in Game Two, but we might not have seen normal when things are clicking but not reaching surreal levels.

And a large part of that is the increasing comfort of Andrew Bogut.

Three keys to winning this series in Game Five

1. BOGUTSMASH: The Warriors didn't control the offensive rebounding battle in Game Four the way they did in the two previous games, but Bogut has rendered the Nuggets' frontcourt almost entirely insignificant in this series. Most of all, his ability to take up space in the paint not only by getting boards but also contesting and altering shots has been huge for the Warriors in their wins. And if he can give the team the type of offensive production that he contributed in the first half of Game Four, this team becomes much, much harder to beat.

2. Can we get another game with both Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson on? I'm loving Barnes at the four, but Denver made him into a bit more of a jump shooter in Game Four - they paid a lot more attention to him on drives and rotated to him faster. Meanwhile, Thompson has actually been pretty good defensively throughout the series, but has struggled a bit when forced to put the ball on the floor. If both Barnes and Thompson are on, lights out.

3. Stop wondering how long Curry can keep "this" up: I assume we all know this, but for those who don't know Curry really is just this good. He has been most of the season. I don't even think we can say "he's finally putting it all together" because that game in New York already happened. What we might be able to say is that Curry is playing with a level of confidence now that only a select few players ever reach. With that, jumpers in the 27-30 foot range off the dribble just aren't outside the realm of common sense. And the Nuggets just haven't found the equation to even contain him, particularly not when everything else is clicking for the Warriors in paint and on the perimeter with Barnes, Thompson, and Jack driving (and also making good decisions).

There are some Warriors fans who are understandably put off by the focus on Denver's defense when Curry is hitting unguardable shots, but the reality is that leaving him wide open or forgetting where he is on the floor is just not wise defense. And you'll remember, this was a concern for Nuggets fans even before the series: they feared that poor 3-point defense was in part due to a lack of discipline. Indeed that's what we've seen here. But the bottom line is that if the Nuggets don't find a way to at least force Curry inside the three point line - twos are better than threes - they're not going to win this game.

Will the Nuggets make the adjustments they need to keep their season alive? Who knows - they've had three games to game plan for the Warriors without Lee and still haven't come up with anything sustainable. Meanwhile the Warriors might just be peaking in their new form without David Lee.

Musical inspiration

When I first sat down to write out this idea of the Warriors being on the rise, I thought of De La Soul's debut album "Three Feet High and Rising". I couldn't really make that into a headline - "Three games up and rising" would've been nice if it was 3-0 - but oh well.

Anyway, a little lyrical inspiration from a song on that album (that's not the classic Me, Myself and I):

True to the soul, we’ll never back step

In sense to that, we don’t half step

Just as a reminder from the last step

Negative ones are lost in footsteps

Levels we’ve set will never go down

Competition commence the step down

In the future, I promise to go with Bay Area music, but this album just came to mind so that's what you're getting.

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