Warriors-Nuggets: What to watch for

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Warriors-Nuggets: What to watch for

Programming note: Warriors-Nuggets coverage begins tonight at 5:30 p.m with Warriors Pregame Live followed by tip off from Denver at 6 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

The Warriors and Nuggets conclude their home-and-home series on Monday night in Denver. The two teams played at Oracle Arena on Saturday which wound up being a 112-97 Golden State win.The Warriors have lost most of their games since trading Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh to Milwaukee in mid-March. Including the win over the Kings in Sacramento on the night the deal was made but before it was officially announced the Warriors are 5-12.But theyve hung in a bunch of those games and most recently have won two of their past three games. As of today, the Warriors currently have the ninth-worst record in the NBA. If the Warriors wind up with the No. 1 through No. 7 pick, theyll keep it. If they end up with the No. 8 pick or worse, the pick will be conveyed to Utah.RELATED: NBA Conference standings
Here are some things to watch for when the Warriors play the Nuggets in Denver on Monday:Afflalo-Thompson: Denver shooting guard Arron Afflalo knocked down five of his first six shots on Saturday and looked to be on track for a big game.But he made just one field goal the in the games last three quarters and finished with a harmless 16 points in 39 minutes. Meanwhile, Warriors rookie Klay Thompson crammed 15 points into 22 minutes and made shots in the second half that allowed Golden State to stay comfortably ahead.Thompson has been a nice surprise since the Ellis trade, but hes still looking for consistency.Will bench travel?: The bench has been one of the best parts of the Warriors this season. Among Brandon Rush, Dominic McGuire, Thompson (before the Ellis trade), Charles Jenkins and Nate Robinson, Warriors coach Mark Jackson has usually found more than one player to rely on.That was the case on Saturday, when the Warriors substitutes combined to score 57 points against Denver, establishing a season-high for bench points.Tylers improvement: Rookie Jeremy Tyler has given the Warriors some productive minutes over the past three games. Can he continue to give the Warriors production as the season winds down?That may go a long way toward determining whether or not Tyler is a viable candidate to be the first big man off the bench next season behind Andrew Bogut and David Lee.Tyler had 10 points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes against Denver on Saturday, and 14 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes the game before that against Utah.

Forget 'could' or 'should' -- the NBA Finals 'must' go seven games

Forget 'could' or 'should' -- the NBA Finals 'must' go seven games

This may not sit well with many Warrior fans and their concept of manifest destiny, but the NBA Finals has to go seven games.

Not “could,” or “should,” but “must.” In other words, it should scare the hell out of every basketball fan interested enough to care.

Sure, the joy of wearing a $35 T-shirt that says “Fo, Fo, Fo, Fo” (hat/tip to the estate of Moses Malone) is its own reward. And yes, being to lord your favorite team’s superiority in a convincing victory will make you the smug, obnoxious fan you’ve always wanted to be. And unquestionably not having to take a second trip to Cleveland or a third trip to Oakland is easy on the body as well as the budget.

But the hell with all that. A seventh game is the one true thing that makes being a human being worthwhile, and better still, a seventh game that ends in overtime elevates us all as a species. Even Ottawa Senators fans who watched their team miss out on a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Final in two overtimes Thursday night feel like they got their money’s worth.

And you can’t get a better deal than that.

For the record, this is not a prediction, nor is it attached to a preference for one team over another. I am rooting neither for Warriors nor Cavaliers. I’m rooting for volume. If this is the series everybody thinks it ought to be, then there ought to be so much of it that everyone should feel like they just binge-Thanksgivinged.

Only 19 Finals have gone to a seventh game, and only five in the last 30 years. But given how much discussion has been generated over the last one, in 2016, why would this series not benefit from a reprise?

Besides, until Game 7 a year ago, the series was wildly disjointed and even nonsensical; the margins of victory were 15, 33, 30, 11, 15 and 14. The 2015 series, which the Warriors won in six games, was at least more fascinating game to game (margins of 8, 2, 5, 21, 13 and 8), but the lingering memory and defining nature of those 13 games is Game 7. A weird series turned into an excellent one because Game 7 cures all other evils – a broken date, a broken heart, a broken femur, a broken computer just as you’re ready to hit “send.” All of it.

So that’s what this needs – especially after all the time the two fan bases have been asked to watch their teams sit idle because of the lack of games. Twenty-one total days between series for each team has worn even the most tortured narratives thin, and the only way the league can make it up to them is to provide a seventh game.

And when we say “provide,” we mean it in that totally-above-board, non-game-fixing way.

So should the Warriors hammer the Cavs with their superior firepower and depth and defense, while it may satisfy you, it will only serve to mark a disappointing end to what has been a disappointing postseason. And should the Cavs do the same with their superior James and Irving and Thompson, the reaction will be the same. The winners get a parade and a ring, and everyone else feels slightly jobbed.

So let the drama begin, and let it linger. You haven’t got anything better to do anyway. The Bay Area baseball teams are struggling as a daily work condition, the Indians have the second worst home record in baseball, the Browns and 49ers are horrific and the Raiders are looking to leave. Plus, we’ve got the Kings.

So with all due acknowledgement to whatever your petty needs might be, this must go seven games. In fact, it should be like the 1957 Finals between Boston and St. Louis, in which the Celtics beat the Hawks, 125-123 in double overtime for their first championship in what became North America’s most enduring sports dynasty.

After all, most games we call “epic” aren’t, but if this new rivalry is to be the equal of all those others, the way is clear, and it won’t be done by in-game pundits or off-day analytics. It will be done in Oakland June 18 – after midnight on the East Coast, just make sure everyone across the land is pot-committed to the game.

Anything short of that will feel like a bit ordering a steak and getting a sandwich. You get to eat. You just won’t remember it as readily.

LeBron doesn't want to discuss Warriors yet: 'They cause a lot of stress'

LeBron doesn't want to discuss Warriors yet: 'They cause a lot of stress'

On Thursday night, the Cavs beat the Celtics 135-102 to punch a ticket to their third straight NBA Finals.

LeBron James racked up 35 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals in 35 minutes.

After the win, he was asked about the challenge of facing the Warriors.

"I'm gonna be honest -- I'm not in the right mind to even talk about Golden State," LeBron told reporters. "It's too stressful and I'm not stressed right now. I'm very happy about our accomplishment ... they've been the best team in our league the last three years and then they added an MVP.

"That's all I can get you right now because I'm happy and I don't want to be stressed."

On Christmas Day, the Cavs erased a 14-point fourth quarter deficit and Kyrie Irving hit the game-winner with 3.4 seconds remaining.

On MLK Day, Golden State jumped on the Cavs early -- leading 37-22 at the end of the first quarter and 78-49 at the half -- en route to a 126-91 victory.

For the first time in NBA history, the same two teams are facing off in the Finals for the third straight year.

Cleveland boasts a postsesaon record of 12-1.

Golden State is the only team ever to enter the Finals with a record of 12-0.

"They cause a lot of stress," LeBron added. "And I'll get to that point when we start to prepare for them."

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders and a Web Producer at NBC Sports Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller