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 Faried’s size-16 sneaker.
Escaping the hole they’re in against the Golden State Warriors won’t be so easy.
The sixth-seeded Warriors beat the Nuggets 115-101 Sunday, their third straight win since losing All-Star David Lee, the league’s leader in double-doubles, to a season-ending hip injury in the series opener.
They’re one win away from closing out George Karl’s 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 Miller’s 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 haven’t 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 Jackson’s rotations have messed up Karl’s matchups and many maneuvers.
We’re not doing things right and they’re 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 you’ve just crossed halfcourt, you can’t scheme around that. You can’t stop that, Faried said. We just have to find a way to not let them do that.
When someone suggested in the aftermath of Denver’s loss Sunday night that the good news is the Nuggets were heading back to the Pepsi Center for Game 5 tonight, Faried retorted, There’s 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 they’ve advanced past the first round just once during that decade.