April 28, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets center Kosta Koufos (41) grabs a rebound against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 115-101. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The reality of elimination looms over Game 5 for the Denver Nuggets

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Apr 26, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson (3) attempts a shot under the reach of Golden State Warriors guard Jarrett Jack (2) in the fourth quarter during game three of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 110-108. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Who would have seen this coming? After Denver’s Game 1 victory, most people assumed the Nuggets would handle Game 2 then steal a game on the road, bringing a 3-1 series lead back to Colorado for Game 5. But that’s not what happened.

Steph Curry went God Mode. Jarrett Jack began knocking down fall away mid range jumpers at an unstoppable pace. Andrew Bogut all of the sudden looked like the healthy. Harrison Barnes became wide open on nearl

Apr 26, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) reacts after making a three point basket against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter during game three of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 110-108. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

y every possession. Draymond Green started hitting 3-pointers and full speed reverse layups.

Ty Lawson struggled on defense. Andre Miller went senile. JaVale McGee and Anthony Randolph became remained Harry and Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber. Kosta Koufos became useless on both ends of the floor. Evan Fournier wasn’t ready for the moment. Wilson Chandler interfered a Corey Brewer layup that was half way in. George Karl played head-scratching lineups and stuck with Old Man Dre for long stretches of games.

And here we are; the Nuggets are down 3-1 and will play an elimination Game 5 back home tonight against the hottest shooting team in the league.

With a loss, Denver’s historic regular season reason will come to a screeching halt. A win puts the Nuggets down 3-2, heading back to Oakland in hopes to become just the ninth team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit.

Some changes that need to be made for Denver:

Corey Brewer should start at the 2

Evan Fournier didn’t really even get minutes until April and he’s performed about as one would expect a rookie with little experience to play in his first playoff series. That’s not to say he doesn’t try. Fournier played relatively well when defending Steph Curry but he looked lost on offense, forced a lot of bad turnovers, wasn’t getting any help from the refs and shot the ball poorly. Karl can’t afford to keep Fournier in the starting lineup.

Brewer is a ball of energy and plays hard every possession. He may gamble too much and run around on the defensive end with reckless abandon, but when he’s on the floor the Nuggets are much better at forcing turnovers and getting out for transition buckets. In  this series, and for most of the regular season, Denver is a much better team when they get out in the open floor after their opponents mistakes.

Tighten up the rotation

11 players logged minutes in Game 4. Granted, Jordan Hamilton only logged 1:56 minutes in garbage time, but still, you get the point. The best teams have their rotation down pat by the end of the regular season and may even shorten it in the postseason. Fournier can’t play in Game 5 and neither can Kosta Koufos. Fournier (understandably) isn’t ready for this moment a

nd Koufos is useless when he’s on the floor. Koufos is getting manhandled down low and doesn’t have the foot speed to guard the pick-and-roll.

Karl needs to cut down to 8 or 9 guys he can trust and run with them. I’m not opposed to cutting Miller’s minutes in half. He’s getting abused by whoever he guards and, since his Game 1 heroics, has shot just 11-of-31 from the field and has 10 assists to 10 turnovers. That’s… really…. bad.

Play physical

The Warriors really shouldn’t be able to match Denver’s physicality, but so far, in this series, they are. The Warriors are mentally and physically tougher than Denver in nearly every aspect of the game. Golden State is out-rebounding 40.5-35.5 per game in this series. The Nuggets killed opponents on the boards all year. Of course, the Warriors are making shots which leaves less rebounding opportunities out there but that’s unacceptable.

As a Nugget you have to know that the Warriors are going to hit 3-pointers. They’re going to hit them in your face, they’re going to hit them off screens and if you leave them open, they are going to hit shots. Steph Curry is going to hit ridiculous jumpers and floaters: that’s not going to change. You have to mentally get past that and just keep playing full speed, instead of running back on defense with your head down like your dog just died.

Prediction:

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Nuggets come out in Game 5 with the home crowd at their side. It’s also going to be interesting to see how they respond when the Warriors start hitting ridiculous shots, because the Warriors are going to hit ridiculous shots. If you don’t believe me, just watch the tape of the first four games. I said the Warriors would win Game 4, but I think the Nuggets take Game 5 behind the support of the home crowd. Nuggets 108, Warriors 100.

 

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Tags: Andre Miller Corey Brewer Denver Nuggets George Karl Golden State Warriors Kosta Koufos NBA Playoffs

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