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Warriors vs Nuggets preview: Bring on the bigs

Can Golden State handle the altitude in Denver on a back-to-back versus a powerful frontcourt?

NBA: Preseason-Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets
Steph Curry will have some large bodies to contend with in Denver.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
  • When: Thursday, November 10 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific time
  • Where: Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
  • Coverage: Television - CSN Bay Area | Radio - 95.7 The Game
  • Blog Buddy: Denver Stiffs

The Warriors look to extend their winning streak to three games in their second back-to-back game of the past week. The Warriors were trounced in Los Angeles the day after crushing Oklahoma City in Oakland last Friday. Tonight’s game may be a bigger challenge given the altitude of the arena and the size of Denver’s frontcourt.

Rocky Mountain High

CBS Sports reported last year that the NBA intended to reduce the number of back-to-back games opponents would play in Denver in response to concerns of an unfair advantage for the home team, which is more acclimated to lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. According to the article, studies show that teams with home arenas at higher elevations, such as the Nuggets and Jazz, enjoy statistically significant home court advantages over other teams.

Well guess what the Warriors are doing tonight: playing a back-to-back in Denver against a young Nuggets team that’s coming off of a day of rest. Nice work on the schedule there, NBA. At least last night’s game against the B team Mavs in Oakland wasn’t all that taxing.

Serious size

While the Pepsi Center rests high above the sea, the Nuggets’ frontcourt enjoys some additional height of its own. Center Jusuf Nurkic stands seven feet tall alongside forwards Nikola Jokic and Danilo Gallinari, both 6’10”. The size of these three physical players could pose a formidable challenge to an undersized Warriors team that leans toward finesse over power.

The teams played in the preseason less than one month ago, resulting in a one point overtime victory for the Dubs in Denver as a result of Patrick McCaw’s breakout game. The Nuggets’ starting frontcourt shot 17-for-28 from the field and collected 25 rebounds. Gallinari was particularly effective, making all four of this 3-point attempts on the way to 7-for-8 shooting overall. Sure, it was the preseason, but the Nuggets made a strong showing.

Keys to this matchup

To win this evening, the Warriors must address their weaknesses: rebounding and turnovers. Given the size of Denver’s starting lineup, Golden State must protect the defensive glass. The Warriors may look to Kevon Looney ahead of David West to help out on the boards. Draymond Green will have his work cut out for him in boxing out Denver’s frontcourt. The Nuggets have the speed to run with the ball, too, so minimizing errant and lazy passes will be critical to the Warriors’ success. Denver is a rare team that could look to run against Golden State.

Additionally, the coaching staff must keep in mind the challenge of playing at that altitude. Frequent substitutions or slight revisions to the usual rotations could help keep the players fresh, particularly coming off of about 20 hours of rest and a flight halfway across the country. Steph Curry expects to play tonight, but don’t be surprised if he is forced to sit out after tweaking his ankle in last night’s victory. If Curry doesn’t play, substitution patterns become more important.

Even if all of that fails, the Warriors will always be in the game if they rack up assists and get open shots. If Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant shoot at a high percentage, it’ll be hard for the Nuggets to keep the game close unless they dominate the rebounding battle.

Other notes

Denver Coach Mike Malone was an Assistant Coach for the Warriors under Mark Jackson from 2011-2013 before accepting a head coach position with the Sacramento Kings. The Kings foolishly fired Malone early in the 2014 season and have regretted the move ever since.

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