Stephen Curry can convince the world he’s a certified superstar by guiding the Golden State Warriors against the NBA’s most balanced and resilient team in the Denver Nuggets Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Game 1 of their seven-game first round series.
Curry set a new standard for three-point shooting this season, connecting on 272 three-pointers to break the previous record held by Miami’s Ray Allen, and in turn helped the Warriors make the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and the second time since 1994.
At 22.9 points and 6.9 assists, Curry exploded in the second half of the season, and had voters second guessing his All-Star snub.
Power forward David Lee was selected an All-Star for the second time in his eight year career, averaging 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds. He also led the NBA with 56 double-doubles this season. And second-year guard Klay Thompson was third on the team in scoring at 16.6 points.
Veteran guard Jarrett Jack became a Sixth Man of the Year candidate with 12.9 points and 5.6 points a game off the bench.
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However, much of the credit for the Warriors recent success belongs to head coach Mark Jackson, who improved the team’s record by 24 wins in his second season.
Jackson is considered a Coach of the Year candidate, but another favorite is Nuggets coach George Karl, who led Denver to third in the West and the second-longest winning streak of the season by any team.
Without a true superstar, the Nuggets employed a rotation that at times went 10 or 11 deep this year for a 57-25 record. Denver was first in the league in scoring at 106.1 points, second in rebounding at 45 a game, and third overall in assists.
Denver also spelled injuries to point guard and leading scorer Ty Lawson, and the loss of smooth-shooting forward Danilo Gallinari.
Lawson returned to play for the final three games of the regular season after a heel injury, but Gallinari is done for the year with an ACL tear.
The Nuggets still possess a plethora of wing studs in Wilson Chandler, Andre Igoudala and Corey Brewer, with Kenneth Faried dominating the glass for 9.2 rebounds a game.
Betting Odds: Denver is favored by 7.5 points
Over/Under: 211 points
Prediction: Denver’s depth has given every opponent trouble this season, with ceaseless waves of offense for all 48 minutes. Golden State can keep up early in the series, but their lack of a bench, other than Jack, will be the different. Faried should have a big game and Denver will win Game 1.
Predicted Score: Denver 103, Golden State 100