Warriors take ‘aggressive’ mind-set into playoffs 

click to enlarge Stephen Curry, foreground, and the Warriors will start the opening playoff series in Denver, where the Nuggets were 38-3 in the regular season. - MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP
  • Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
  • Stephen Curry, foreground, and the Warriors will start the opening playoff series in Denver, where the Nuggets were 38-3 in the regular season.

OAKLAND — One word was repeated by Warriors forward David Lee over and over on Thursday. When Stephen Curry used the same word in describing the team’s plan in their playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, which begins Saturday, it was clear the team knew how they want to approach what will be the first playoff game for most of them.

“We’re just going to go in there being aggressive,” Lee said. “The pressure stands on them that we’re the underdog, going to be aggressive on the road. That’s what we are going to do. We’re going to go out there and try to strike first.”

If that attitude seems unfamiliar to Warriors fans who will be watching the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years, they can thank coach Mark Jackson, who arrived before last season with the intention of turning the franchise around.

Jackson made a point of saying he wanted to change the culture in Golden State, and he said getting to this point is a sign that a change has occurred already.

“We no longer talk about changing the culture,” he said. “I think it’s a fact that the culture has changed. And the credit goes to the guys in that locker room. They’ve done an incredible job of buying in. Being relevant when the playoffs start after 82 games, people are still talking about you, that’s what they looked forward to. They’re not talking about who we’re going to draft. They’re talking about a first-round opponent. That’s a heck of a statement about the culture being changed.”

That confidence in their position extends to their plan on the court as well. Never mind that Denver has a 38-3 record in the Mile High City, fueled by one of the deepest teams in the league and the thin Rocky Mountain air that saps the strength of their opponents. The Warriors left for Denver on Thursday evening, giving them a few days to get acclimated to the environment before Saturday’s series opener.

Curry said overcoming the altitude difference won’t be their biggest obstacle, however.

“I don’t think the thinness of the air gave them a 38-3 record at home,” he said. “We’ve just got to come in aggressive and ready to go.”

There’s that word again. Aggressive. Both teams like to push on offense, and Curry went on to say that they won’t change who they are just to try bring the Nuggets down a notch.

“We want to try to do what we do best, knowing that that’s a strength of theirs as well,” he said. “But I don’t foresee us trying to change the tempo just because they’re a high-scoring team. If we can get back in transition and stop their fast-break attack, we should be alright.”

However it plays out, this will be the first playoff test for the majority of the roster, and for Jackson as a coach. Of the starters, only center Andrew Bogut has been on a playoff team, when his Milwaukee Bucks team lost in the first round in 2006.

Their position as newcomers is a stark contrast to their first round opponent in Denver. This marks the Nuggets’ 10th consecutive trip to the postseason, though they have advanced past the first round only once, when they made it to the conference finals in 2009.

Series breakdown

  • SEASON SERIES: Nuggets won 3-1. The teams met three times in November and Denver nearly won them all, taking a double-overtime affair on the road in the first meeting, then winning at home and falling 106-105 on the road — all those games coming in a three-week span. They haven’t played since Jan. 13, a 116-105 home win for the Nuggets.
  • KEY MATCHUP: Ty Lawson vs. Stephen Curry. Lawson won’t have to do it alone, but the safest way for Denver to grab control of this series would be to not allow Curry — the league’s newly crowned single-season 3-point record-holder — to shoot the Warriors into the second round. It’ll be interesting to see how keeping at least one eye on Curry on one end will affect Lawson’s scoring.
  • X-FACTOR: David Lee. He’s a two-time All-Star, an eight-year veteran and not only is this his first time in the NBA playoffs, but it’s his first time playing for a team that won more than 36 games.
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