If the NBA regular season were to end today, the Golden State Warriors would be playing as the number six seed in the playoffs. As per the norm, the six seed would face off against the third seed in a seven game series. The team in this case would be the Denver Nuggets, a team with an offensive philosophy similar to the up-tempo style of the Warriors.
In the four meetings between the two teams, the Nuggets bested the Warriors three times and only lost to them once in a very close game. If you asked me a week ago, I would’ve told you that the Warriors excellent 2012-2013 season would’ve ended with a first round exit in the playoffs. However, Danilo Gallinari’s ACL tear really improves the Warriors chances to advance into the second round.
In all four games, “Gallo” scored at least 20 points against the Warriors defense. Missing that kind of production could turn the tide for the Warriors, especially since Gallinari’s size and shooting touch created favorable mismatches for the Italian small forward. The Nuggets lose their biggest three-point threat and the Warriors gain an easier assignment.
Unfortunately, the Nuggets have the depth to make up for their loss in the forms of Corey Brewer and Wilson Chandler. Corey Brewer is the better defender but Wilson Chandler is the bigger offensive threat. It’ll be interesting to see how Coach George Karl splits the minutes between them.
My prediction for this series is for the Warriors to win it in six games. The loss of Gallinari hurts them and the Warriors take advantage thanks to Bogut’s help defense and the shooting of Klay Thompson. Gallinari was an adequate defender and his length bothered Thompson, especially when shooting from beyond the arc.
So this would lead to the Warriors (and I’m assuming here) playing the San Antonio Spurs in the second round. The Warriors must’ve done something to please the basketball gods because I like the Warriors chances against the Spurs even more. The Spurs haven’t been wildly successful in the post-season in recent years, losing to teams that have one thing in common: an athletic team that can run up and down the court.
Gregg Popovich is a great coach, but there’s only so much you can do without having great athletes. He manages to fill his roster with players who fit his system, but sometimes the system isn’t enough if you’re being outhustled on every play. They also haven’t been rebounding well, which allows for many teams to get multiple second chances and with the Dubs being the third best rebounding team in the league, it shouldn’t be too difficult to create those opportunities.
This series could go to seven, and I’d like to see the Warriors advancing to the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately, the buck stops here for the Warriors. The Thunder are too good of a team, and also the favorites to contend against the mighty Miami Heat for the title. I’m not expecting the Warriors to make it easy for the Thunder, but I don’t see a positive outcome happening for the Dubs in this series. And that’s more of a testament to the Thunder’s greatness than it is a slight to the Ws.
Before I started this piece, I was of the mindset that the Warriors just had a second round ceiling. But as I wrote on and saw the possible scenarios, I grew more confident in their ability to beat the Nuggets or the Clippers as well as the Spurs in the second round.
However, a few variables have to go in the Warriors favor for this to happen, and the Western Conference’s seeding still isn’t settled when compared to the Eastern Conference. The most important things that have to happen is that the Warriors hold on to their spot as the sixth seed and the Thunder win more games that the Spurs for the remainder of the season, allowing the Thunder to claim the No. 1 seed and the Spurs to retain the second seed.
No matter what happens, expect any series with the Warriors to be an exciting one. With their up and down style and their ability to score in a hurry, the Dubs will never be completely out of a game.