OAKLAND – This is when the pace quickens in the Nuggets-Warriors series that continues in a few hours at Oracle Arena, and not the tempo on the court.
Neither side minds it in style of play, especially Denver. Both sides may mind it with the schedule.
The first-round series that went from Game 1 to two days off to Game 2 to two days off has moved into an every-other-day routine. It’s not a big deal for teams that play back-to-backs and three times in four nights in the regular season, except that the calendar could become an issue because of extenuating circumstances with location and health.
Stephen Curry, the spark to the Warriors’ 2-1 lead, will have very little recovery time with the sprained left ankle that remains a Golden State concern despite Curry passing the first test by playing 38 minutes on Friday, and playing very well. Curry, who already wears a brace to support the right ankle that needed surgery last year, said he ditched the brace on the left ankle during Game 3 because using two was too difficult. But, he said, he will have the bottom of the left leg heavily taped.
Location becomes an issue when the series returns to Denver on Tuesday and, if necessary, Saturday for a Game 7. Even the Nuggets talk about the risk of adjusting to being back at altitude after they have been out of town, which makes Game 5 at the Pepsi Center a potential unique challenge for both sides.
A few other notes heading into tonight:
- Strange reaction from Nuggets coach George Karl after losing Game 3 to fall behind in the series: “There’s a lot of good tonight. I told the team after the game that the process of the NBA playoffs is to get better. We got better tonight. We didn’t win tonight, but there’s a process going on and it’s just two wins. They’re barely half the way there. I think it’s going to be fun Sunday. I think tonight’s game was a great game to be a part of.”
- The Nuggets are still obviously in the series, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to be down and facing another game in the noise of Oracle Arena. But “There’s a lot of good tonight?”
- Warriors coach Mark Jackson continues to put a great deal of faith in his three rookies. He played Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli together in the fourth quarter of Game 2, though with the safety net of a big lead, and then in the tight finish to Game 3 went with Barnes the entire fourth quarter and Green about half the final period.
- The question had to be asked: Was Curry really as hurt as the Warriors indicated before Game 2 or was it one giant head fake? He played 38 minutes, after all, and had 29 points and 11 assists against three turnovers, which qualifies as a little more than getting through the night.
“I really wish I was giving a Hollywood treatment,” Jackson said. “Steph, we did not know. He did not practice both practices (Wednesday and Thursday), he did go through shootaround (Friday). We got here, took a look at him jumping rope like everybody else and took a look at him sprinting. We didn’t need to see him shoot the basketball. He’s a gamer. The interesting thing, I believe, the second half or somewhere in the third quarter, he took his brace off. I mean, the guy made big-time plays, man. I’m still baffled and I know it’s going to sound like a broken record, but somebody owes the kid an apology. Please write an article and say, ‘Sorry.’ He’s an All-Star. He’s a big-time player and he made big-time plays.”