Chris Schneider/Associated Press file photo
Chris Schneider/Associated Press file photo
Stephen Curry laced up his shoes before practice without so much as a soul around him.
As soon as the Golden State guard was ready to step onto the Pepsi Center floor, he was swarmed by a pack of reporters.
These days, Curry’s never left open on the court.
The Denver Nuggets certainly don’t plan on giving Curry much breathing room in Game 2 tonight. They know – like the whole league knows – just how dangerous Curry is with an open look at the rim.
Granted, Curry didn’t exactly have a Stephen Curry type performance on Saturday, hitting just 7 of 20 shots during a 97-95 loss to open the best-of-seven playoff series. But with David Lee gone for the postseason because of a torn right hip flexor, the Warriors are counting on even more from Curry.
He’s counting on even more from himself, too. Curry can’t afford another slow start like in Game 1, when he missed his first nine shots.
Curry did rediscover his touch in the second half, scoring 15 of his 19 points.
“Hopefully, that rhythm I built in the second half will build for the rest of the series,” Curry said after practice Monday. “I’m not worried about that cold start coming back anytime soon.”
He will see plenty of different looks as the Nuggets constantly rotate fresh defenders on him. Ty Lawson did most of the chasing when it came to Curry, along with Andre Iguodala, Wilson Chandler and rookie Evan Fournier.
Basically, Curry never had a moment’s peace when he was on the floor – nor will he. The Nuggets even blitzed the Warriors’ pick-and-roll plays, just to disrupt Curry’s timing.
“I expect the same,” Curry said with a shrug. “Make some adjustments on our end to try to go back at that.”
No Lee in the lineup has Nuggets coach George Karl a little on edge. He’s not sure how the Warriors are going to make up for missing their All-Star power forward, but he knows Curry could play a big role. When Lee sat out at New York on Feb. 27, Curry erupted for 54 points against the Knicks.
“Incredibly scary, because Curry was fantastic,” Karl said.
Golden State coach Mark Jackson was coy when asked about who may start in Lee’s place. Jackson might go with Carl Landry or Draymond Green. Or he might choose to play veteran Richard Jefferson.
Another option is to go with a smaller lineup and use guard Jarrett Jack. That’s the plan Jack is hoping for, vowing to work on his low-post moves just in case.
“I’m a Jack-of-all-trades kind of guy,” said Jack, who wound up third Monday in the voting for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, with the award going to J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks. “Power forward is definitely in my repertoire. I don’t know what took (coach) so long to put me down here in the first place. If he calls on me to do it, I’ll be ready.”
Regardless of who lines up at power forward, Lawson expects Klay Thompson and Curry to see more shots. Thompson had a team-high 22 points in the opening game of the series.
“A lot more focus on them and trying to slow them down,” Lawson said.
Especially on Curry, who’s hard to stop once he finds his rhythm. He’s also hard to keep up with, as Lawson found out on Saturday. The Nuggets point guard was all over Curry in the corner, and yet Curry still drained a game-tying 3-pointer with 14.5 seconds remaining, setting the stage for Andre Miller’s game-winning layup.
“Just try to keep fresh legs on him,” Lawson said of stopping Curry. “Because the same person chasing him the whole game might get tired.”
The Nuggets will have some fresh legs returning to the lineup as Kenneth Faried expects to play after sitting out the first game with a sprained left ankle. The player nicknamed “Manimal” provides an energy boost.
“He’s an all-effort guy,” center Andrew Bogut said. “It’s not like they’re going to throw the ball into the post and let him get a one-on-one. That’s not his strength. His strength is offensive rebounds, hustle points, loose balls. He’s one of the best in the league in doing that.
“To limit his production, you have to go out of your comfort zone, energy-wise, to match his intensity.”
On Saturday, Bogut was back from a bone bruise on his surgically repaired left ankle and contributed nine points, 14 boards, three assists, four blocks and a steal.
So, is he 100 percent healthy again?
“I’m not going to put a number on it, not going to say I’m healthy or not healthy,” Bogut said. “It’s an out if I play bad. All of a sudden, it’s a hero story if I play well. ... I’m here playing in the playoffs.”
And hoping to help the Warriors capture a game in Denver, before the series shifts back to Golden State.
“We’re not going to panic,” Jackson said. “We thought we were good enough to win Game 1. They made plays; they made the biggest play.”
Without Lee around, Jackson wants his players to “stay in character” and not try to do too much.
“Their job is not to be David Lee,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, we want you to be you.”
Being Curry means shooting his share of jumpers, even if he’s only slightly open.
After all, Curry shot his way into NBA history by draining 272 3-pointers this season, three more than former record-holder Ray Allen in 2005-06.
“I’m going to try to get to the basket a little more, to get my rhythm,” Curry said. “Shooting and the 3-ball and spacing the floor is definitely a strength and I’ve got to have confidence.”