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Nuggets down to their final chance

Monday - 4/29/2013, 6:45pm  ET

Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried wipes his face during a timeout in the first half of Game 4 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, Sunday, April 28, 2013, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Sports Writer

DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Nuggets left behind a hole in the wall just inside the visiting locker room at Oracle Arena, courtesy of frustrated forward Kenneth Faried's size 16 sneaker.

Escaping the hole they're in against the Golden State Warriors won't be so easy.

The sixth-seeded Warriors have won three straight games since losing All-Star David Lee, the league's leader in double-doubles, to a season-ending hip injury in the series opener.

They're one win away from closing out George Karl's third-seeded band of speedsters who rolled into the playoffs on a 23-3 run and an NBA franchise-best 57-win season that included 23 straight home wins.

Denver, which is facing the prospect of getting bounced from the first round for the ninth time in 10 years, had designs on a deep playoff run like they had in 2008-09 but have been outsmarted, outhustled, outshot and outrebounded this entire series.

Only Andre Miller's twisting layup with a second left in Game 1 stands between the Nuggets and a four-game sweep. Golden State coach Mark Jackson surprised Karl with what was essentially a four-guard starting lineup for Game 2 and the Warriors haven't missed Lee -- or many shots, for that matter -- ever since.

The Warriors were 3-18 when playing without Lee over the last three regular seasons but are 3-0 without him in the playoffs as Jackson's rotations have messed up Karl's matchups and many maneuvers.

"We're not doing things right and they're doing everything right," Miller said.

Andrew Bogut's pre-eminence in the post after an injury-filled regular season in which he didn't play in any of Golden State's four games against Denver has been among the biggest surprises of the series.

"He's brought a defensive physicality to their front line," Karl said.

The Nuggets have found no answers for Stephen Curry and the rest of the uncannily accurate Warriors, whose barrage of 3-point baskets, high shooting percentages and surprising dominance in the paint and on the glass have sapped the Nuggets' energy along with their vaunted transition game.

"When they come down and just hit 3s when you've just crossed halfcourt, you can't scheme around that. You can't stop that," Faried said. "We just have to find a way to not let them do that."

When someone suggested in the aftermath of Denver's 115-101 loss Sunday night that the good news is the Nuggets were heading back to the Pepsi Center for Game 5 Tuesday night, the flustered forward retorted, "There's no good news."

That about sums it up for Denver, which is on the verge of yet another early exit from the playoffs.

This is the Nuggets' 10th straight trip to the postseason but they've advanced past the first round just once during that decade.

Karl's counting on the homecourt helping the Nuggets snap out of their funk, noting "it usually takes one game to turn around your confidence."

Exhibit A in that argument is Golden State's Game 2 win when they handed the Nuggets their first home loss in three months, then rode that wave of momentum to two wins in Oakland.

"We do got them at home and I hope our crowd can get as loud as their crowd was," Faried said. "It was deafening. You really can't hear much and their crowd really gets behind them. I respect that. Our crowd really gets behind us when we get going. Hopefully we can feed off ours and show them a thing or two."

A Nuggets win might also finally put some pressure on the Warriors, who have relished the underdog role so far while showing not a bit of nerves despite being the playoff newbies they are.

Faried has an idea of what has to change Tuesday night, besides the venue.

"Everything," he said. "We just need to throw everything out the book and come back with a better game plan. Right now we're not playing Nuggets basketball. We're not looking for the open man. It just looked bad out there."

Curry is leading the charge for Golden State. He has swished 18 3-pointers, more than any player in NBA history in the first four playoff games of his career. And he scored 22 of his career playoff-high 31 points in the decisive third quarter Sunday night.

By no means is he a one-man show, though.

"I'll probably start on him the next game," Andre Iguodala said. "We'll try that. But when you look at it, he's not the only one hurting us. He's making a lot of plays, making some great shots. Give him credit but Jarrett Jack's playing really well for them. Bogut was incredible for them in the first quarter. (Harrison) Barnes has hurt us, as well. It's not just one guy.

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