Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:00 PM
The Denver Nuggets are in a lot of trouble. They’re not officially toast just yet in their first round series against the Golden State Warriors. Trailing 3-1 is surmountable if you’re the superior seed…which means two of the last three games would be at home if you can keep winning. But, there are quite a few problems that don’t have a ready solution.
*Denver’s defense has found no way at all to slow down Golden State’s offense beyond hoping that they miss! They’ve already caught a few breaks in that David Lee was lost to injury, Stephen Curry has been playing on a bad ankle, and Klay Thompson hasn’t had the kind of hot runs that he’s capable of. Yet, they’re still allowing a bunch of open looks on three pointers and a very high shooting percentage on two-pointers. Defense wins playoff games…and Denver’s defense is lost.
*You often see us pair up defense with rebounding…as in “defense and rebounding win championships!” Denver has been outrebounded in three of the four games, and is -20 in differential to this point in the series. Worse, they won rebounding by eight in Game Four but still lost on the scoreboard decisively.
*Having two home games left may not mean what everyone was thinking. Denver was lucky to win the opener at home when Andre Miller channeled Michael Jordan for the last five minutes…and then last badly in Game Two. Altitude isn’t a big issue to opponents who aren’t playing in a back-to-back and have had time to acclimate. It’s far from safe to assume that Denver’s a lock to win their home games (even if the spread is as high as -8).
*Trying to win on the road is going to be a chore because Oracle Arena has such great fans. The noise there is deafening. There’s finally a team on the floor worthy of those great fans.
*Golden State, to this point, has shown us a mismatch in “basketball intelligence.” This is a smart team that knows how to move the ball and how to find the weakest link on a defense. Denver’s loaded with athletes who aren’t blessed yet with a great basketball sense. Regardless of what you think about head coaches Mark Jackson and George Karl…the PLAYERS are showing us that “smart” beats “confused.”
Denver may be -8, -1 and say, -6 on the Las Vegas board in the last three games of this series if it does go the distance. Las Vegas has done a really BAD job on this series though in terms of anticipating how the Nuggets were going to play.
Denver (-7.5) beat Golden state by 2 (missing by 5.5 points)
Denver (-8) lost to Golden State by 14 (missing by 22 points)
Denver (-1.5) lost to Golden State by 2 (missing by 3.5 points)
Denver (-2) lost to Golden State by 14 points (missing by 16 points)
That’s a combined miss of 47 points…which is almost a dozen per game on average. Don’t assume the favorite is going to win out…when the favorite is 1-3 straight up so far with the win coming near the buzzer!
JIM HURLEY says the key to handicapping Tuesday Night’s fifth game lies in the Golden State mindset. If they relax with a 3-1 series lead, then the pointspread doesn’t really matter. They might take a game to rest up so they can bring peak intensity in Game Six. But, if the Warriors DON’T relax with their lead, then this Vegas line is probably at least four points too high based on the matchup dynamics. Bad defenses can’t lay this many points to motivated offenses!
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Back with you Wednesday to talk about either Game Five of Boston/New York, or Game Five of Atlanta/Indiana. Coverage continues daily through the playoffs here in the NOTEBOOK. Be sure you’re linking up daily with handicapping legend JIM HURLEY!