JJ Redick breaks down the only way Denver Nuggets can potentially surprise the Golden State Warriors and overtake the series after a blowout loss in Game 1.
The Warriors dismantled the Nuggets
The Golden State Warriors outplayed the Denver Nuggets in every possible way in Game 1, and it's already evident this series could easily be a sweep if the Nuggets coaching staff doesn't make the necessary adjustments. The Warriors deserve their credit because offensively, they were absolutely brilliant-looking like that championship team from a few years ago that was able to dismantle their opponents through 3 quarters. The Steph Curry, Jordan Poole, and Klay Thompson trio were unstoppable, combining 84 points out of 126 that they scored in that game for the Warriors.
According to former NBA player and current analyst JJ Redick, the Warriors exploited Nikola Jokic on defense with their ultimate small-ball lineup where Draymond Green played the center. The Warriors' strategy was to attack Jokic as much as possible and bring him out, which created room for their slashers and shooters to have more room to operate. On his podcast, Redick said Jokic is one of the best at deflecting passes when getting attacked on the pick-n-rolls. However, the Warriors were able to utilize the fact that Jokic was so high up the floor because it freed up space for others since Jokic can't recover as fast as the Nuggets want him to recover when put in a situation like that.
"My one observation is the amount of space Jokic had to cover defensively. Jokic, at times, is up in pick-n-rolls. At times he is up. He is one of the best big men, and I throw Nerlens Noel in that mix, too, of being up and using their hands to deter the guard or using their hands to deflect the dribble, deflect the pocket pass. That is something he is good at, I am not saying he is not good at but at some point, you will have to play longer stretches in strict drop coverage. That is what he does, and to have him up over and over again. To me, it plays into the Warriors' hands a bit because all of a sudden, you are getting those 4 on 3 situations."
There is only one thing the Nuggets can do
Redick believes the Nuggets will have to implore a different defensive strategy in the upcoming games when they see the Warriors are attacking Jokic in the pick-n-rolls. Interestingly enough, it would be better for Jokic to back down on the pick-n-rolls and the Nuggets just live with the Warriors taking some of those open shots, however crazy that may sound.
"We saw they are up, they blitz, or he is at the level of a screen, screener slips out they throw it to the free-throw line and then kick it for a three. Gary Payton junior back cutting from the corner for a layup. You are playing 4 on 3 on the backside all the time. That, to me, is the adjustment. We are going to put Jokic in the comfort zone, we are going to allow him to conserve a little bit of energy at times by having him back, and we might live with some pull-up jumpers, and again, Jordan Poole, Klay, and Steph are not the guys you want shooting pull up jumpers, but you are going to rely on that rearview contest. If that doesn't work, you are shit out of luck."
Nikola Jokic did his part offensively for the Nuggets scoring 26 points while grabbing 11 rebounds, and there is so much he can do against a well-run team like the Warriors that have so much firepower and can hurt you in so many ways. Unfortunately, the Nuggets are still missing the two most important players besides Jokic in Murray and Porter Jr., and it will take a miracle for them to beat the Warriors that seemed to find their flow finally.
Game 2 is on schedule tomorrow, and we can expect the Warriors to have a similar strategy as in the first game since it obviously worked. What type of adjustments the Nuggets will have remains to be seen, but Michael Malone's coaching staff was probably looking for the best possible solutions moving forward. Maybe they implement a similar strategy as the one Redick suggested because they have nothing to lose, and perhaps it actually works to a certain degree.