nba playoffs preview: 3-6 matchup

This should be one exciting series. Scoring is the modus operandi of both teams and both franchises are enjoying one of their best seasons ever. Golden State is back in the postseason after a short hiatus while George Karl, the Nuggets coach, has once again disproved the theory that a team needs superstars to succeed. At one point during the season, it did look like the Nuggets would lose their 3rd seeding to either the Clippers or the Grizzlies, especially after they lost Danilo Gallinari for the season and Ty Lawson for the stretch, but they held on and even dominated opponents to end the season.

Denver has the best home record in the league this season at 38-3, a mark better than even the sizzling Miami Heat (37-4). Not only that, but they have managed to win 8 of their last 9 regular season games despite losing key players to injury. Although Gallinari is lost for the season due to a torn ACL, Lawson and Kenneth Faried are expected to be healthy for the postseason. The Nuggets run Moreyball-on-cocaine, meaning that nearly all their shots are either from beyond the arc or in the paint. They rely on forcing turnovers, getting offensive rebounds and getting lots of buckets in transition. The fact that they play their home games in Denver and are accustomed to the atmospheric differences helps, too. Visiting teams often find themselves out of energy by the 4th quarter.

Golden State is returning to the playoffs with a pretty solid offensive unit but one that has ushered in some semblance of defense into their line-up as well. This isn’t the same GSW team that stunned Dallas a few seasons ago, but it’s packed with lots of multi-faceted offensive player. Stephen Curry is the most important player on this team and is proving his credentials as an elite shooter by eclipsing the single-season three-pointers made record set by Ray Allen. However, one often overlooked facet of Curry’s game is his ability to hit a variety of different teardrops in the paint.

The pressure doesn’t go off once Curry goes to the bench as he is backed up by Jarrett Jack, a candidate for 6th man of the year and probably even Most Improved Player. Jack has been on a tear, notching up 40% from beyond the arc and being very aggressive offensively. Watch out for a bunch of transition jumpers from him. Beyond Jack, the Warriors feature several solid offensive players in David LeeKlay Thompson (another threat from three-point range), Harrison Barnes and Carl Landry. However, I think the key for them being able to pull off an upset this year is going to come down to how much play they can get out of Andrew Bogut. Bogut is a rim-protector and shot-blocker but he’s also unfortunately one of the most injured players in the league. Expect a layup drill from the Nuggets if Bogut cannot get dressed for these games.

I think this will be a very exciting serious and actually contemplated giving the Warriors the upset pick here, but the Nuggets’ resilience despite injuries through the end of the season (as well as their easy 3-1 victory in the regular season series) encourages me to use logic instead.

PREDICTION: Nuggets in 6 (4-2)

I won’t lie, this is a series I’m unlikely to watch and one that I’m guessing is going to be relegated to NBA TV for a lot of the games. This should make it fairly obvious that I haven’t followed either of these teams this season, but I’ll try to cobble together a little preview.

From the Pacers perspective, this has been the season of Paul George, the leading candidate for Most Improved Player of the year. And it couldn’t have come a moment too soon for the franchise, who lost Danny Granger for most of the beginning of the season and even towards the end after a few games played. They’ve been led well from the point guard position by George Hill and David West has been as solid as ever. And of course, Roy Hibbert remains one of the top defensive centers in the league. However, it is still hard for me to get too excited about this team. I think they’ll play well but aren’t near being contenders, yet.

Atlanta, meanwhile, managed to string together a decent season despite trading Joe Johnson away to the Nets. Al Horford has put in a steady season and Josh Smith has once again put in decent numbers despite being one of the stupider basketball players to play the game (seriously, stop shooting three-pointers, Josh). I guess this team also has Jeff Teague and Lou Williams but I feel like they’re injured and I cannot bother to find out. These two teams split their regular season series 2-2, but I expect the Pacers to walk away with this one.

PREDICTION: Pacers in 5 (4-1)

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