Position-by-Position Matchup Guide for Denver Nuggets vs. Golden State Warriors

Nick Juskewycz@@NickJuskewyczContributor IIIApril 22, 2013

Game 1 between the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors was undoubtedly the most exciting playoff game over the weekend.

Even though both teams failed to break 100 points, the tempo was high, and the physical play was evident. Plus, after the playoff jitters went away, we saw big-time shots down the stretch that were concluded by Andre Miller's game-winner with 1.3 seconds remaining.

With each team facing injury problems, it's time to take a look at the matchups at each position going forward.

Since both squads play with an up-tempo style, they will often rotate and switch on defense. Therefore, these matchups must be examined by position overall.


Point Guard

Ty Lawson and Stephen Curry didn't have their best games to begin the series, but both players made clutch plays in the final minute. Lawson stole the ball from Curry and converted the layup in transition to go up three, followed by Curry nailing the fadeaway and contested three-pointer to tie it.

However, the storyline at point guard in Game 1 was Miller. The veteran racked up 28 points on an efficient 11-of-16 shooting while dishing out five assists. He also did this.

While it was odd to see Draymond Green guard Miller in isolation to begin with, Miller proved he can still make the big time play.

Nonetheless, it isn't just about one game, and the Warriors have the edge. Because of Curry's ability to shoot it from long range combined with his speed, the Nuggets rotate multiple people to attempt to slow him down. 

As good as Lawson is in transition and attacking the basket, he isn't quite the overall threat that Curry is.

As for Miller, there is something to be said for Miller's experience and how much he's stepped up since Lawson's plantar fascia tear (via Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports). 

Something should also be said for Jarrett Jack's 12.9 points and the way he can penetrate the lane. Even though he comes off the bench, Jack's 29.7 minutes per game are the fourth highest on the Warriors.

The two backup point guards are crucial elements to their teams.

If this matchup was based on Game 1 only, the Nuggets would be the choice because of Miller. Overall, Golden State edges Denver.

Winner: Golden State

Shooting Guard

Even though Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 22 points on Saturday, the complete package of Andre Iguodala makes a significant difference. As this chart shows for the 2012-13 season, Thompson has the scoring edge, but Iguodala is more successful in other categories.

Iguodala's versatility makes him one of the most essential pieces on the Nuggets. He attacks, can score multiple ways and makes people better around him. Iggy is also Denver's best overall defender.

The two strengths Thompson has on Iguodala is his shooting from three-point range (40.1 percent against 31.7 percent) and the free-throw line (84.1 percent against 57.4 percent). While those are bonuses, Thompson only gets to the free-throw line 1.9 times to Iguodala's 3.4. 

As far as the bench goes, it's more straightforward for Denver than Golden State.

Rookie Evan Fournier will likely come off the bench again for the Nuggets after head coach George Karl went with a smaller lineup for Game 1 without Kenneth Faried. Fournier has scored 46 points in his last three games.

For Golden State, while Thompson is on the bench, it's generally Curry and Jack taking turns playing the 2. While both players can play both guard spots, Curry has the better three-point shot for the shooting guard position.

Regardless, since Iguodala and Thompson play 34.7 and 35.8 minutes per game, respectively, most of the weight on this debate is on the shooting guard starters. 

Winner: Denver

Small Forward

With Faried returning for Game 2, according to the Denver Nuggets Twitter account, Wilson Chandler will most likely slide back to the 3.

Since Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL in early April (via Zach Harper of CBS Sports), Chandler has excelled in the starting lineup. Not only has he posted 18.9 points and seven rebounds in his last seven games, he pulled down 13 boards in Game 1 while Faried was out.

Meanwhile, rookie Harrison Barnes has started every game he has played in this season, but he's only played an average of 25.4 minutes to Chandler's 25.1 during the regular season. Despite only scoring 9.6 points, Barnes has a dynamic offensive attack from the perimeter and in transition.

Another player who can play from the perimeter is Corey Brewer (12.1 ppg). While he struggled shooting from behind the arc toward the end of the regular season, Brewer buried two of his four three-point attempts in Game 1, including one to close out the third quarter. 

For Golden State recently, Thompson has moved up to the 3 when Curry and Jack are playing the guard positions. The rookie, Green, and veteran Richard Jefferson have seen less playing time in the later part of the regular season with Green being the only one getting any action in Game 1 (four minutes).

Passing isn't the role for Chandler, Brewer and Barnes considering that the three players all average under two assists per game. However, the depth and scoring ability of Denver at the 3 gives them a solid advantage at the position. 

Winner: Denver

Power Forward

In contrast to Faried returning to action, Golden State loses David Lee for the rest of the postseason after tearing his right hip flexor in Game 1 (per Dan Devine of Yahoo! Sports). 

The production the Warriors lose is substantial. Lee is averaging 18.5 points and 11.2 boards per game and shoots 51.9 percent from the floor. As this shot chart from Vorped.com displays, Lee is shooting 55 percent in the last 30 days and is particularly a threat from the middle of the floor.

The likely replacement in the starting lineup is Carl Landry who posts 10.8 points and six rebounds in 23.2 minutes. Green should see his minutes increased off the bench as well at power forward.  

Faried (11.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg) brings a great amount of energy to this Nuggets team and his presence alone lifts his teammates' play. He also runs the floor very well, which is a huge factor in this fast-paced series.  

If Lee was healthy, the Warriors would take this. Since he isn't, the Nuggets win this matchup.

Winner: Denver


Even though Andrew Bogut only played 32 games in the regular season, he's had some solid performances, like in Game 1 with his nine points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. He was also plus-10, the best on Golden State.

Kosta Koufos has been consistent all year. He might not be flashy like some of his fellow big men, but his eight points and 6.9 rebounds can be expected in just about every game. 

With David Lee now sidelined, Festus Ezeli is going to have to elevate his game. While he played 14.9 minutes in the month of April, Ezeli only saw six minutes in Game 1 with one point and two rebounds. All those numbers must increase for Golden State to have a chance in the series.

We know what we get out of Denver's leader in PER (20.8), JaVale McGee. He's going to throw the hammer down on someone, block a shot that doesn't seem physically possible and roar multiple times in celebration and frustration.

If it's a healthy Bogut versus Koufos, the Warriors win this by a slim margin. Although, it's about the entire position, and McGee's energy through his rejections and thunderous dunks has been spectacular.

Here are two examples from Denver's win over Golden State on Nov. 23. 

Winner: Denver

Now that Lee's postseason is over, the Nuggets have a huge advantage.


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