DENVER – The Denver Nuggets left behind a hole in the wall just inside the visiting locker room at Oracle Arena, courtesy of frustrated forward Kenneth Farieds size-16 sneaker.
Escaping the hole theyre in against the Golden State Warriors wont be so easy.
The sixth-seeded Warriors beat the Nuggets 115-101 Sunday, their third straight win since losing All-Star David Lee, the leagues leader in double-doubles, to a season-ending hip injury in the series opener.
Theyre one win away from closing out George Karls third-seeded band of speedsters who rolled into the playoffs on a 23-3 run and an NBA franchise-best 57-win season that included 23 straight home wins.
Only Andre Millers twisting layup with a second left in Game 1 stands between the Nuggets and a four-game sweep. Golden State coach Mark Jackson surprised Karl with what was essentially a four-guard starting lineup for Game 2 and the Warriors havent missed Lee – or many shots, for that matter – since.
The Warriors were 3-18 when playing without Lee over the last three regular seasons but are 3-0 without him in the playoffs as Jacksons rotations have messed up Karls matchups and many maneuvers.
Were not doing things right and theyre doing everything right, Miller said.
The Nuggets have found no answers for Stephen Curry and the rest of the uncannily accurate Warriors, whose barrage of three-point baskets, high shooting percentages and surprising dominance in the paint and on the glass have sapped the Nuggets energy along with their vaunted transition game.
When they come down and just hit threes when youve just crossed halfcourt, you cant scheme around that. You cant stop that, Faried said. We just have to find a way to not let them do that.
When someone suggested in the aftermath of Denvers loss Sunday night that the good news is the Nuggets were heading back to the Pepsi Center for Game 5 tonight, Faried retorted, Theres no good news.
That about sums it up for Denver, which is on the verge of another early exit from the playoffs. This is the Nuggets 10th straight trip to the postseason but theyve advanced past the first round just once during that decade.