Warriors-Nuggets Preview

A lot has changed since the Golden State Warriors knocked the

Denver Nuggets out of the Western Conference playoffs last May in a

hard-fought, six-game series.

From a top player switching teams to a coaching change on one of

the benches, each franchise has undergone major overhauls since the

series ended heading into their first meeting this season Monday

night.

The biggest change comes courtesy of forward Andre Iguodala, who

averaged 18.0 points for the Nuggets in the playoff series a year

ago. The series-clinching loss was his last game in a Nuggets

uniform, as he signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the

Warriors in July.

Iguodala missed 12 games because of a hamstring injury earlier

in the season, and has averaged just 3.7 points in the three games

since his return on Dec. 17.

The other major difference is on the Nuggets sideline, where

Brian Shaw has replaced reigning NBA Coach of the Year George Karl.

Shaw has had some success during his first season, but the team

enters this game having lost four of five.

The Nuggets (14-12) have a lot of issues that are contributing

to their losing ways, but the most important of them has nothing to

do with scoring, rebounding and defense, according to their

coach.

“Right now, maturity is a big thing with the team,” Shaw said

following the team’s latest setback, a 112-91 loss to the Los

Angeles Clippers. “We are complaining and we are crying every

single time a play doesn’t go right for us. We complain to the

referees, looking for any excuse as to why something didn’t work

out for us and it’s costing us at the other end. We’ve talked about

punishing criers and not being criers ourselves, but we are

actually the ones that are crying.”

On the season, Denver has scored 101.2 points and allowed 100.6

points per game. However, over the past three games, the Nuggets

scoring has dipped to 94.3 points per game while allowing

106.7.

The Warriors (15-13) have the offense to take advantage of

Denver’s recent defensive effort issues. Golden State averages

103.3 points and is coming off a 102-83 win against the Los Angeles

Lakers on Saturday. Iguodala didn’t need to do much, as David Lee,

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 54 points, while

Andrew Bogut chipped in 12 and 20 rebounds.

The key for Golden State is its defense. The Warriors limited

the Lakers to 32.5 percent shooting and scored 28 points off the 24

turnovers they forced.

“Our offense is going to come and go, but if we show up

defensively, force them into spots where we want them, with energy,

we’ll be fine,” Curry said. “If you make them work on every

possession, whether they make the shots or not, just as long as

they aren’t getting easy looks. As long as we stick to our game

plan, good things will happen.”

The Nuggets have owned this series of late in Denver, going 16-2

in regular-season home games versus the Warriors since December

2003. During those games, the Nuggets have averaged 116.0 points

and outscored Golden State by 12.3 points per game.