The Warriors make their first trip this season to Denver on Thursday, and it will be quick. They arrived Wednesday afternoon, and with the postponement of their game at Phoenix on Friday, they’ll return to the Bay Area late Thursday night.
While the Warriors (6-5) are trying to stay above .500, the Nuggets (5-6) are trying to get there for the second time this season.
The Warriors listed no new names on the afternoon injury report, but Denver will be without starting small forward Michael Porter Jr. due to NBA's health and safety protocols. Starting guard Gary Harris (personal reasons) is listed as questionable.
The Warriors enter Ball Arena as underdogs, despite the Nuggets losing four of their first five games and being only 2-4 at home.
Here are three keys for the Warriors to escape Colorado with a victory:
Defense first, second and all night
Even with the slow start, Denver has done one thing particularly well. No team in the NBA is shooting better.
The Nuggets lead the NBA in field goal percentage (49.4), rank second in offensive rating (116.3) and ninth in 3-point percentage (38.4). They’re fifth in the NBA in scoring (116.5 per game), fourth in points off turnovers (19.5) and seventh in points in the paint (49.5)
They’re putting up these numbers mostly in half-court sets, where crisp and smart passing – with savvy center Nikola Jokic as the hub – often lead to open looks. Denver ranks third in the league in assists, averaging 27.2 per game.
The goal is to keep Denver’s percentages in the low 30s (from deep) and low 40s (overall).
Set a blistering pace
The Warriors at their best run at every opportunity, which will be particularly challenging at mile-high altitude, especially early.
But it’s their best chance to success.
Denver teams typically try to take advantage of the altitude to run opponents off the floor. Not these Nuggets. They rank 25th in fast-break points (10.6 per game). Jokic is relatively ponderous. Power forward Paul Millsap, 35, doesn’t have legs he once did. If they start 7-foot-2 Bol Bol at the other forward, as they did Tuesday at Brooklyn, it’s another reason for the Warriors to run.
Golden State is 13th in fast-break points (13.6) but third in pace (Denver is 26th), so dictating tempo is a must.
Destroy them inside and out
The Warriors tend to play good defense in spurts, and poor defense in spells. That’s why they are No. 20 in defensive rating (110.4). Well, Denver is in most ways worse.
The Nuggets are 25th in defensive rating (113.3). Moreover, they have been soft beyond the arc, where opponents are shooting 39.0 percent, and vulnerable in the paint, giving up 48.2 points per game.
Neither of their best players, guard Jamal Murray and Jokic, defend well. The Warriors can attack Jokic inside while launching from deep. No matter how Denver defends Stephen Curry, someone in a Warriors jersey should find clean looks. Maybe even Curry.