The Nuggets are riding their four-game winning streak to the Pepsi Center tonight as they take on the Golden State Warriors. Here are a few keys for Denver if they want to push it to a season high five games.
1) The return of Wilson Chandler – Chandler returns from his hip injury and feels he is 100 percent. Chandler has played just 33 games with the Nuggets in the past three years, so the jury is still out on him. What the Nuggets do know is that he averaged 16.4 points per game with the Knicks in 2010-2011 before the Carmelo Anthony trade. Wilson provides more depth and can potentially help out the Nuggets from behind the arc. As a top-flight wing defender, the Nuggets need to have him on the court in the waining minutes to help Andre Iguodala lock down the sharpshooting Warriors.
2) Show you aren’t a fluke – Sure the Nuggets are riding a four-game winning streak. They’ve also done that against three sub .500 teams in a row (Lakers, Magic, and Cavaliers) in which they needed clutch free throws and shots down the stretch. They also handled Utah who is just one game over .500. The Nuggets are beating the teams they have to beat with their 22-16 record. The Nuggets however have three straight opponents with winning records in the Warriors, Portland Trailblazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder. If Denver wants to be considered a serious contender, they’ll need to win at least two of these and prove they can hang with the big boys.
3) Protect your house – The Warriors are off to their best start since (23-12) since 1991-1992. While they beat Portland to kickoff the weekend, they suffered their second set of back-to-back losses this season. Similar to the Nuggets, we’ll get to see how legit the Warriors are with upcoming games against the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder in the coming weeks. The Warriors face a difficult challenge as the Nuggets are 13-2 at home this season. The Nuggets need to contain the Warriors three-point shooters and win the battle of the boards at home.
4) Be the bigger man – The Warriors like to shoot the ball. There is no debate about that. Stephen Curry (106) and Klay Thompson (95) currently rank second and third respectively in three-point field goals made. As a team, they shoot 38 percent from downtown per game. While Iguodala and Hamilton will do their best to contain the outside shooting, it’s inevitable that it’s going to happen. The Nuggets need to win the battle down low. While David Lee is having an outstanding season for the Warriors, they are without Andrew Bogut who has been out after microfracture ankle surgery since early November. With an injured Bogut, the Warriors are without a true big man as they have to rely on Festus Ezeli down low. With Kenneth Faried holding his own against Lee, the Nuggets need Javale McGee and Kosta Koufos to show up. Koufos is coming off a career-high 21 points in the Nuggets win over the Cavaliers.
5) Keep your foot on the gas – While their offensive production has slipped since last year, much in part of the departure of Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington, the Nuggets have still scored just over 102 points per game this season. Over their last four however, the Nuggets have scored 107 points per game. Golden State gives up an average of 98 points per game to its opponents, so the Nuggets will be tested. They are less likely to get out to an early start against the Warriors, so in order to extend their winning streak to five games, Denver needs to keep its foot on the gas throughout the duration of the game.