Warriors-Nuggets Game 5 preview: Curry's minutes limitation is gone
Time for change? Or will a little home cooking be enough to oust Denver?
The Golden State Warriors couldn’t quite pull off a sweep of Nikola Jokic and his Denver Nuggets, but despite some lopsided shooting, it was still a close call in game four in Denver. Now the series swings back into San Francisco, where for the first time in these playoffs Golden State will have to adjust
Whether it’s some minor tweak designed to free up Jordan Poole — who finds himself suddenly as a focal point of the defensive game planning — or something more major like shifting Curry into the starting lineup and changing all the rotation minutes; the Warriors finally have to counter a Nuggets team that they were having their way with in the first three games.
The only real injury news at time of writing is that Curry has been fully cleared from his leg injury. No more minutes limit, but coach Steve Kerr was understandably coy in regards to what exactly this means for tonight’s game.
WHO: Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets
WHEN: Wednesday, April 27th, 2022 // 7pm PDT
Warriors lead series 3-1 over Denver
What went wrong in game four?
First of all, “not that much” is a good answer. The Warriors lost by a grand total of five points and had the lead with about a minute left on a night that the Nuggets shot 48.4% on threes as a team, and Curry uncharacteristically missed four free throws. But don’t expect Denver to give up just because they got the one moral victory win. Golden State will need to address some of the issues that plagued them in game four.
Worried or not, that was a 17 point deficit at one point, so the Warriors are definitely going to be looking at the film to see what went wrong… and more importantly, how to fix it. As a sort of perverse victory, the Warriors got through this season partially because of their ability to win with a lot of different lineups and personnel, so it’s time to tinker!
Jokic continues to be the main problem, as expected. He’s truly one of those “you can only hope to slow him down” guys, especially in this series. In game four though, the Warriors weren’t able to slow him down much at all. 37 points on 14-21 shooting, he hit all six of his free throw attempts, and grabbed eight rebounds and dealt six assists. For the series so far, he’s averaging 31.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in around 35 minutes per game. He also had 7 turnovers in that last game, and is frequently the target of a lethal Warriors pick-and-roll attack.
…but then again, he was also the dude that was most vocally blowing up Kerr’s play call late in the game:
Really, the story in game four was the shooting. Aaron Gordon and Monte Morris were both averaging around 13-14 points per game, but for some reason they decided to go nuclear at the same time. Morris was the story of the game in the first half, when it seemed like he just couldn’t miss — he ended the game with a healthy 24 points (including 5 of 7 from beyond the arc). Gordon’s 21 points were equally as damaging though because of how frequently he got to the line (he took 13 of the team’s 36 free throws).
However you want to slice it, there’s no hiding that Denver served up a beating to the Warriors for the first time in these playoffs. in game four, they put up series highs in points (126), field goal percentage (56.2%), 3-pointers made (15), 3-point percentage (48.4%) and assists (28).
If Curry shifts his minutes, that’s going to cause a cascade effect down the rest of the rotation — a wings rotation that finds itself concerned with stopping Morris, Gordon, and even rookie Bones Hyland. It’s well within the Warriors capability, they had one of the best defenses for almost the entire season, but expect some adjustments.
It looks like Nemanja Bjelica fell out of the rotation a bit, logging just five minutes, while Kuminga made his first appearance, but with Jokic going crazy, both he and Kevon Looney could expect more burn.
This seems more like a situation where Kerr will be throwing all the spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. Plus, if you’re the conspiracy type, the fix is in!
There’s a lot going right for Golden State, too
The Warriors’ five man unit is still dominating.
With the game on the line, Kerr went to the unit without a name with eight minutes left in the 4th, and they rewarded his faith by going +7 in six minutes — before Green was called for his 6th foul and had to leave the game.
Still. This closing unit is a major problem for Denver.
That’s five of the top six offensive ratings all rolled up into one lethal five-man Warriors unit. Denver’s defense is suspect all over the place, from Jokic getting attacked on the pick-and-roll, to a team that simply has no good coverage options for either one of the Splash Brothers.
It’s time to close the series out. A little more Looney please, and some minor adjustments to free up Poole; along with general tightening of the defensive rotations on the wings should do it.