Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets (-8, 210.5)
The Denver Nuggets are on the shortlist of NBA title contenders due in part to their overwhelming homecourt advantage. The Nuggets will put that advantage to the test when they host the Golden State Warriors on Saturday in the opener of a first-round playoff series. Golden State had to battle until the last few minutes of the regular season to secure the No. 6 spot but enters the playoffs with little experience. The Nuggets will have their depth tested in the first round.
Denver lost leading scorer Danilo Gallinari for the rest of the season to a knee injury earlier this month and fierce rebounder Kenneth Faried went down with an ankle sprain in the final week. The Nuggets are listing Faried as questionable for Saturday but might need to have a backup plan for keeping David Lee off the boards. The Warriors had their own injury scare when Andrew Bogut went down with a sprained ankle, but the big man returned for the season finale on Wednesday and should be in the starting lineup for Game 1. Bogut’s presence in the paint is essential on the defensive end.
TV: 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Altitude (Denver)
ABOUT THE WARRIORS (47-35): Golden State is heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and Bogut is the only starter with any postseason experience. Veterans like Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Richard Jefferson will come off the bench to support first-timers Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Lee. The Warriors have survived all season by playing an up-tempo pace that stops at the 3-point line, where Curry set the single-season record for made 3-pointers with 272. Thompson finished third in the league with 211 3-pointers and Jack offers a third reliable option from deep, which opens space on the inside for Lee to operate. Lee was the lone All-Star representative but Curry has taken over in the second half of the season and is becoming a star. The lanky point guard hit 11 3-pointers in a game at Madison Square Garden in February and knocked down nine at Los Angeles on April 12 to make his run at Ray Allen’s record possible over the last two games. Staying in front of Denver’s guards on defense, or at least forcing them to move toward Bogut in the middle, will be the big test for Curry in the series.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (57-25): Denver went 38-3 at home and could probably match Golden State 3-point attempt for 3-point attempt if it wanted. Instead, the Nuggets force the pace and get all the way to the rim. Faried is one of the team’s best finishers in the paint but certainly not the only one. Faried went out three minutes into a win over Portland on Sunday and Denver still averaged 116 points in its final three contests, including the date with the Trail Blazers. The Nuggets will go 10 or 11 players deep with or without Faried and Gallinari and will use their altitude and depth to wear out the Warriors in the first two games. Denver took both of the meetings at home in the regular season by 11 points apiece. Curry went for 29 points in the last meeting on Jan. 13 but the Nuggets had nine players score at least eight points and outscored Golden State in the paint 58-32.
* Warriors are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Nuggets are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 vs. NBA Pacific foes.
* Over is 4-0 in Nuggets’ last four overall.
* Home team is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings.
1. Lee led the NBA with 56 double-doubles, becoming the first Warriors player to lead the league in the category since Wilt Chamberlain in 1963-64.
2. Denver took three of the four meetings during the regular season, with the lone setback coming at Golden State on Nov. 29, 106-105.
3. Curry has hit 56.3 percent of his 3-point attempts in 12 career games against the Nuggets.
Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers (-5, 178.5)
The Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies engaged in a hard-fought playoff series last year and the Western Conference first-round series between the two teams should be just as competitive this time around. Game 1 is Saturday in Los Angeles between two clubs that each won 56 regular-season games to set franchise marks for victories in a season. The Clippers won the season series 3-1. Last season’s playoff series went seven games with Los Angeles prevailing.
The fourth-seeded Clippers won their last seven games while fifth-seeded Memphis won nine of its last 11 games. The Grizzlies win with defense and the Clippers are familiar with what looms. “We know that team very well,” guard Chauncey Billups said. “They’re going to play hard. They want to out-execute you. They want to pound you and rebound and throw it to their bigs inside and we’ve just got to be ready for them.” Memphis center Marc Gasol minimized the payback aspect of facing the Clippers. “We want to win,” Gasol said. “We want to win four games. We want to get into the second round. It is not about revenge.”
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Fox Sports Tennessee (Memphis), Prime Ticket (Los Angeles)
ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (56-26): Memphis held an NBA-best 71 opponents under 100 points and led the NBA in scoring defense at 89.3 points per game. The Grizzlies are the first team to hold opponents under an average of 90 points since the 2005-06 campaign, when both Memphis and San Antonio did so. Gasol averaged 16.8 points and nine rebounds against the Clippers this season and power forward Zach Randolph averaged 14.8 points and 12 rebounds. Point guard Mike Conley has the tough task of dueling with All-Star Chris Paul. That didn’t go so well in the four regular-season meetings, when Conley shot just 30.2 percent while averaging 10.3 points and 5.8 assists.
ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (56-26): Paul averaged 16.3 points and 8.7 assists in three games against Memphis. Sixth man Jamal Crawford had 29 points in one of the victories but had just two points on 1-of-10 shooting in Los Angeles’ lone loss. He averaged 14 points against the Grizzlies. Power forward Blake Griffin had some struggles against Randolph while averaging 13.8 points and seven rebounds. Los Angeles would like to get a big series from center DeAndre Jordan, who shot 65.5 percent against the Grizzlies while averaging 9.5 points and seven rebounds. Los Angeles topped 100 points against Memphis in one of the four games and scored 99 in another.
* Clippers are 4-0 ATS in their last four home games.
* Under is 9-1 in Grizzlies’ last 10 overall.
* Under is 6-1 in the last seven meetings.
* Grizzlies are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall.
1. The teams split the two regular-season meetings at the Staples Center.
2. Memphis went 24-17 on the road this season, the first time the franchise has ever posted a winning mark.
3. The Clippers set a franchise mark with a 32-9 home record.