Nikola Jokic

Warriors vs. Nuggets Watch Guide: Lineups, injury report and player usage

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Warriors vs. Nuggets Watch Guide: Lineups, injury report and player usage

OAKLAND -- For the better part of the last month, the Warriors have been trying to fend off the Nuggets for the top spot in the Western Conference. 

Now, with a matchup against Nuggets on Tuesday, the champs have a chance to all but seal that goal. 

[RELATED: How to watch Warriors vs. Nuggets on MyTeams app]

Entering Tuesday, the Warriors are one game up on Denver and hold a tiebreaker by winning the season series, meaning a win Tuesday will effectively give Golden State home court advantage throughout the postseason. 

Here's everything you need to know about the matchup.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors
F Kevin Durant 
F Draymond Green
C DeMarcus Cousins
G Klay Thompson
G Stephen Curry

Nuggets
F Paul Millsap
C Nikola Jokic
F Jamal Murray
G Will Murray
G Gary Harris

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: Andre Iguodala (left toe soreness) is questionable, Damian Jones (left pectoral surgery) is out

Nuggets: Jamal Murray (left ankle sprain) is probable, Michael Porter, Jr. (low back surgery) is out

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Warriors

The Warriors have won seven of their last ten games following a rough post-All-Star start. 

Curry, who hit six 3-pointers in Sunday's win over the Hornets, has hit at least five 3-pointers in eight straight games

Meanwhile, Durant, who made all five of his shots Sunday, enters Tuesday's game shooting 65 percent from the field over his last four games, adding seven rebounds and eight assists.

Nuggets

Despite being second in the Western Conference, Denver is just 20-18 on the road this season and have lost three over their last five games entering Tuesday. 

Still, Jokic has been fantastic this season, averaging 20.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists, garnering some early season MVP chatter. 

Murray has also enjoyed a career season, averaging 18.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists. 

Officials: Zach Zarba (#15), Mark Lindsey (#29), Gediminas Petraitris (#50)
 

Nikola Jokic will be barometer for DeMarcus Cousins' playoff readiness

Nikola Jokic will be barometer for DeMarcus Cousins' playoff readiness

OAKLAND -- DeMarcus Cousins has 18 games to make his case for consistent minutes in the postseason. His opening argument begins Friday night at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors face the Denver Nuggets.

It’s a crucial game for both teams, as the Warriors have a one-game lead over the Nuggets in the Western Conference and are pursuing the No. 1 overall seed.

It’s a statement game for Cousins, who will be the primary defender on Nikola Jokic, Denver’s 7-foot big man who is concluding the best season by any center in the conference and perhaps the entire NBA.

Because his skills are so comprehensive, Jokic is the perfect opponent to test the defense of an individual (Cousins) and team (the Warriors). He orchestrates much of Denver’s offense; he is tied for fifth in the NBA in assists (7.7) per game and can score at every level, shooting 50.5 percent overall and 32.1 percent from deep.

He’ll be the most challenging opponent Cousins has seen since in five weeks -- since facing 76ers big man Joel Embiid on Jan. 31 -- and can provide an accurate indication of how far Boogie, who made his Warriors debut on Jan. 18, has progressed.

Cousins has been a frequent scapegoat for the Warriors’ many defensive weaknesses. Some of the criticism is deserved, much of it not. He can be slow to rotate, resulting in reaching, which is a quick ticket to foul trouble. He is coming off a yearlong layoff to recover from a severe injury.

He also doesn’t get a lot of help. The Warriors’ defensive statistics have been similar with (108.6 rating) or without Cousins (108.9).

“Our defense has been horse---t no matter who’s in there,” Draymond Green, who also can expect to see plenty of Jokic, conceded this week.

In the wake of being routed 128-95 by the Celtics on Tuesday, coach Steve Kerr mentioned pick-and-roll coverage while citing a need to “simplify” the defense.

“The details defensively always matter, and then the competitive desire on top of that,” said Kerr, singling out pick-and-roll coverage. “If you put all that together, you’ve got a good formula. We’ve got enough defensive-minded players to get it done. We’ll get it done.”

Green said he would make it his personal mission to catalyze the defense, which this season is No. 16 in the league, 15th since Cousins was activated. The Warriors will need to be better, collectively and individually, to succeed in the postseason.

Warriors-Nuggets is about as “postseason” as it gets in March. They could face each other in May, and there is no question Cousins will want to log as many minutes as possible against as many opponents as possible.

[RELATED: Ask Kerith: What's Bogut's fit with Boogie, on Warriors?]

The only potential playoff opponent against whom Cousins can expect a reduced role is Houston, where 6-10 center Clint Capela relies on quickness and athleticism.

Most of the others, including Jokic, tend to fall into the category of “classic” centers, big bodies that rely largely on physicality and finesse.

Cousins is on trial for a new contract. He wants to shine, and doing that in a marquee game against an All-Star center would be, for him and for the Warriors, about as good as it can get at this stage of the season.

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in historic 142-111 win over Nuggets

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in historic 142-111 win over Nuggets

BOX SCORE

The Warriors are back on top of the Western Conference, thin air notwithstanding.

Looking like the champions they are, the Warriors sprinted into Pepsi Center in Denver on Tuesday and laid a 142-111 annihilation on the Nuggets.

It was the fifth consecutive win by the Warriors (30-14), the first time since early November they have had such a run of success.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant combined for 89 points on 65.3 shooting, Kevon Looney snagged a career-high 12 rebounds and Draymond Green posted a team-best plus-41 in his 31 minutes of work.

In taking their first home loss in more than two months, Denver (29-14) dropped behind the Warriors and into second place in the conference.

Here are three takeaways from the Warriors’ most impressive game of the season:

So ... any questions?

From being on the blunt end of blowouts at home, to the mediocre defensive numbers, to the general team chemistry, there have been legitimate concerns about the Warriors this season.

Consider those concerns incinerated.

The Warriors opened this game with playoff intensity, and with such extraordinary offense that the defense barely mattered. They built a 10-point lead in less than four minutes and a 20-point lead early in the second quarter. They had 22 assists and two turnovers in the first half and finished with 38 and 10, respectively.

When the Warriors really want to show what they’re about, this is what they do. This was a reminder -- for themselves and the rest of the NBA -- of the damage they do when fully engaged.

3-Ball City

Denver entered the game with the best 3-point shot defense in the NBA, limiting opponents to 33.2-percent shooting from beyond the arc.

So when the Warriors drained 10 3-pointers in only 14 attempts in the first quarter, the Nuggets had to be shocked. They also had to have an inkling of what was in store.

[RELATED: Warriors set franchise records in first quarter vs. Nuggets]

By the time Draymond Green hit a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, it was abundantly clear the Nuggets would be buried under a pile of triples.

The 3-balls kept dropping and dropping at an absurdly efficient rate. Curry scored 31 points on 8-of-13 shooting from deep, Durant totaled 27 and was 5-of-7 from deep, while Thompson was 5-of-8 from beyond the arc in finishing with 31 points.

The Warriors finished 21-of-39 (53.8 percent) from deep.

Joke was on “The Joker"

Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic -- AKA The Joker -- leads the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. The 7-footer was coming off a game in which he scored 40 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and recorded eight assists.

He’s in the MVP conversation.

The Warriors went after him early, made him defend and wore him out.

Jokic totaled 17 points, eight assists, four rebounds and three turnovers. He was minus-21 in 23 minutes.

What happened to his offense? The Warriors played him straight-up, mostly with Looney, but sent another player whenever he was in the paint. There was not one minute during which Jokic looked comfortable on offense.

When you contain -- practically silence -- the opponent’s best player, victory tends to be a given.