OAKLAND – The Warriors officially welcome 2017 on Monday night, when they face the Denver Nuggets at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors (29-5), who have won their last seven home games and are 14-2 in Oakland this season, could be without key reserve Shaun Livingston, who is coping with slight injuries to his elbow and hip. Livingston did, however, participate in shootaround Monday morning at the team facility.
The Nuggets (14-19) have been playing better in recent weeks, winning five of eight games, but are coming off a 124-122 home loss to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.
Warriors by 15
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Zaza Pachulia vs. Nikola Jokic: Pachulia has had his moments, but he’ll need to be on his game against Jokic, the 21-year-old who is establishing himself as one of the league’s better young centers. Jokic has been on an impressive run lately, averaging 21.7 points (on 63.4-percent shooting), 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists over the last three games. Pachulia will need to be smart and stay out of foul trouble in an effort to contain the 6-foot-11 Serbian.
Warriors: G Shaun Livingston (L hip and R elbow contusions) and C JaVale McGee (illness) were listed as questionable, but are available to play according to Steve Kerr. G Pat McCaw (flu-like symptoms) is out.
Nuggets: G Jameer Nelson (abdominal strain) and F Darrell Arthur (L knee soreness) are listed as questionable.
Warriors: 9-1. Nuggets: 6-4.
The Warriors won the first of three meetings this season, 125-101, on Nov. 10 in Denver and have won seven of the last nine against the Nuggets.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1) The Glass Wars: The Nuggets are the league’s No. 2 rebounding team, having been beaten in that category only four times this season. They are particularly effective on the offensive glass, an area in which the Warriors have been vulnerable (they allow more than any other team). The Warriors don’t have to win the glass battle, but they can’t afford to get clobbered.
2) No charity: Another strength of this Denver team is its uncanny ability to get to the free throw line. Part of it is undoubtedly due to relentless work on the offensive glass, but the Nuggets also attack the paint with frequency. Their 26.6 free throws per game is tops in the NBA.
3) Enver Nuggets: Denver’s Michael Malone, a former Warriors assistant, is considered a defensive-minded coach. There is no sign of it thus far, as the Nuggets rank 27th in defensive rating. If they can’t put together stretches of sound D, the Warriors will blow them off the floor.