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Warriors vs. Nuggets Preview: This game is a test

The Warriors have not been passing many tests lately.

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Golden State Warriors v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors haven’t beaten many good teams. A narrow victory last week over a Milwaukee Bucks team that was absent its best player is the only win over a quality opponent in recent memory.

Enter the Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets are one of the best teams in the league, made one of the biggest trade deadline moves, and have the prohibitive MVP favorite on their side.

Not exactly an easy game.

The deets

Who: Golden State Warriors (25-28) vs. Denver Nuggets (34-19)

When: 7:00 p.m. PT

Where: Chase Center, San Francisco, California

TV: ESPN (available on fuboTV)

Projected starting lineups:

Warriors: Stephen Curry, Kent Bazemore, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
Nuggets: Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokić

Last results:

Warriors: Beat the Rockets 125-109 — 2-3 in their last 5 games
Nuggets: Lost to the Celtics 105-87 — 4-1 in their last 5 games

Team ratings (garbage-time adjusted, per Cleaning The Glass):

Warriors: 109.1 offense (24th), 111.9 defense (9th), -2.8 net (22nd)
Nuggets: 118.4 offense (4th), 112.7 defense (14th), +5.7 net (5th)

The story

The Warriors have 19 games left, and it looks as though they’ll be without James Wiseman for all 19 of them. Tonight we get our first glimpse of what approach the team is going to take with their rookie starting center out.

Kevon Looney might see an uptick in minutes, but in all likelihood we’ll just see a lot more minutes of small ball, with Draymond Green and Juan Toscano-Anderson getting a lot of run at the 5.

It hurts Wiseman’s development, but it could help them win games.

Players to watch

Warrior to watch: Steph Curry.

Curry is the Warrior to watch for two reasons, in addition to the eternal reason that he’s Stephen Freaking Curry. First, he’s on an absolute tear right now, having scored 30 or more points in six straight games, averaging 36.0 points per game and making 43.0% of his threes in that time frame. And second, against a team that’s clearly better than they are, the Warriors will need to rely on their superstar.

Nugget to watch: Aaron Gordon.

The rich get richer, as Denver swung a beautiful deadline deal for San Jose’s own in the high-flying Gordon. He’s still finding his footing as he slides into a new, smaller role than he was accustomed to with the Orlando Magic, but he’s a dangerous weapon.

Matchup to watch: Every Warriors player vs. Nikola Jokić.

Jokić is the frontrunner for MVP this year, with averages of 26.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, 8.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Despite being a 6’11” force in the post, Jokić is shooting 42.4% from beyond the arc, and is fourth in the league in assists.

Kevon Looney will have his hands full. Draymond Green will have his hands full. Juan Toscano-Anderson will have his hands full.

And everyone on the court, even if not directly defending Jokić, will have their hands fully.

Keys to victory

  • Don’t get backcut to death by Denver’s wings as Nikola Jokić racks up assists after assist
  • Tread water during the minutes when Steph Curry is on the bench
  • Draymond Green be engaged on both ends of the court

This won’t be an easy one, but if they win, it will be an impressive one.

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