DENVER -- Pinpointing the massive defensive issues facing their team after Game 2 in a first-round playoff series against Golden State didn't require extensive film study for the Nuggets coaching staff. One look at Tuesday night's blowout loss confirmed what coach George Karl and his staff already knew.
"It wasn't very good," Karl said. "(Stephen) Curry, their shooters got into a rhythm, and I thought we played a regular season game (when we needed) playoff intensity. We'll learn that desperate teams are dangerous, and desperate teams that shoot the (heck) out of the ball are really dangerous."
The raw numbers were stomach-turning: Golden State's 131 points, 64.6 percent field goal percentage, 14 3-point shots, three consecutive quarters of 35 points allowed. A forgettable night.
With the playoff series tied, 1-1, there are specific schematic issues the Nuggets must address before Friday's Game 3 at Oracle Arena. The Warriors exploited the Nuggets two biggest weaknesses on defense this season - defending the pick-and-roll and contesting 3-point shots. Golden State shot 14 of 25 from beyond the 3-point arc and continually exploited Denver's inability to defend the pick-and-roll well.
Karl is charged with fixing those problems quickly or risk having his team again ushered out of the postseason after the first round.
Solving the screen/roll issue is two-fold: First, addressing the mistakes of those involved in the plays Tuesday night. But just as large a concern to the Nuggets' coaching staff is who wasn't involved in their pick-and-roll defense.
Golden State's adjustment from its Game 1 loss was to virtually eliminate all screen/roll action involving 6-foot-8 Wilson Chandler, arguably the Nuggets best big defender against that play. Karl said Wednesday he may counter Friday night by playing Chandler some at center, a lineup he in fact tried during the fourth quarter Tuesday night. In that quarter, Chandler was the center, guarding Festus Ezeli, in a lineup that included Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer and Andre Miller. He was involved in two screen/roll situations, and both times the Nuggets tried to trap Curry. The trap didn't work. On both plays Ezeli sprung loose to the rim for dunks on feeds from Curry.
In all, Golden State was 2-of-6 when Chandler was one of the primary screen/roll defenders, which is why the Warriors would like to stay away from that matchup. Golden State had much more success targeting Denver's centers, and the Nuggets played Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried and Anthony Randolph at the five spot during the game. Nine times McGee was pulled into defending the pick-and-roll, more than any other Nuggets big man, followed by five for Koufos and four for Faried.
"They switched the angle (of the screen) if we were forcing it down, and played one-on-one with the bigs," Lawson said.
Dribble penetration was also an issue. Eight of Golden State's 3-pointers were spot-up shots. Of those eight, six were set up by a teammate getting into the paint and passing the ball to an open man. The Nuggets know walling off the lane is a must.
What is not likely to change much is the Nuggets insistence on trapping Curry. Karl wants the ball out of Curry's hands by forcing him to pass, and preferably not to a cutter headed toward the rim.
"Everybody has a piece to do better," said Karl, acknowledging the struggles of his post players in screen-roll defense, but not blaming them for all the problems. "We didn't have great ball pressure, and we didn't have great weak-side help. And they made some tough shots. It's a combination; as coaches maybe we should have reacted quicker with what they were trying to do with their bigs. Everybody has a piece of the failure."