Previewing Game 5 of the Nuggets-Warriors first-round series.
1. Where We Are: After Andre Miller gutted out a Game 1 victory for the Denver Nuggets, the Golden State Warriors have exploited defensive matchups with opportunistic shooting to win three straight games to take a 3-1 series lead. The Nuggets love to run and get easy buckets in transition, but the Warriors aren't letting this happen at the rate that it did during the regular season. Denver's fast-break point average is down four. The Nuggets' strength is being contained by the Warriors, while the Warriors' strength of shooting the ball has only increased. It's a bad trend that the Nuggets have to break if they want to keep playing.
2. The Big Number: 59.2. That's the effective field-goal percentage of the Warriors in this series. It's by far the top eFG percentage in the playoffs for any team, 4.8 percent ahead of the Miami Heat. Are the Nuggets able to cut this percentage down significantly? Their defensive rotations have been assuming at best: "If I'm near a shooter, he'll think I'm going to block the shot, even if I don't have a chance." The problem with that is the Warriors' shooters know exactly how much room they have to get the shot off. If the Nuggets want to stop this trend, they have to actually defend the shots being taken. Being in the vicinity just gives you the best seat in the house to see it rip through the net.
3. Key Adjustment: Stop hiding Ty Lawson and start trapping Steph Curry. The Nuggets have tried to hide Lawson defensively throughout this series by keeping him away from Curry and putting him on Jarrett Jack. The problem is Jack also recognizes that Lawson isn't going to affect his shot. So now you're asking Andre Iguodala to run through screens the Denver big men aren't slowing down. Really, you should have Lawson on Curry, let the little guy get around screens and trap Curry whenever he gets the ball and starts dribbling. This mismatch mismanagement has to end for Denver if they want to keep their postseason alive. Make Lawson attempt to bother Curry, use the smallest guy to get around screens and don't ever let Curry get comfortable.
4. The Big Story: Will the hot shooting continue? If the Nuggets refuse to adjust what they're doing, then, absolutely. Another problem the Nuggets have defensively is they're going with Kenneth Faried at center. I know he's a scrappy, athletic player with fun hair and a motor that lets him be a Manimal on the boards. But think about what you're doing. You're putting a 6-foot-6 power forward at center and asking him to defend Andrew Bogut. He can't do that, and now you've given up the interior on defense. Now Bogut can dunk, and Harrison Barnes can dunk inside. Your defense has to suck into the middle, which leaves open the perimeter. Guess who has been pretty decent from the perimeter: the Warriors.
5. The Facts: 8 p.m. ET start time. David Lee is out with a torn hip flexor.