Prelude to Game 1: Altitude a Factor, But it Won’t Be an Excuse

The Warriors fashion themselves as a no-excuse basketball team. So even though the Nuggets have a noted home-court advantage, coach Mark Jackson isn’t going to point to that as the culprit should Golden State lose the series.

“We’ve watched every bit of film and I haven’t seen altitude score and I haven’t seen fans score or rebound,” Jackson said during pregame interviews on Saturday. “At the end of the day, credit goes to the coaching staff, led by George Karl, and that group of players. Win lose or draw, it won’t be because of the fans or the altitude.”

Denver finished 38-3 at home. Jackson acknowledged the altitude is a factor — noting that he speaks from experience as a coach, a former visiting player, and a player who once wore a Nuggets uniform.

He said the Warriors came a day early in part to offset the altitude. And he is emphasizing to his players to maximize their minutes.

“When you need a blow, raise your hand and let me know,” Jackson said. “This is a different animal.”

Warriors forward David Lee said the altitude has its biggest effect in the first and third quarters. Karl acknowledged it’s a factor as well. He said his players, after returning from a road trip, feels it the first game or two back. He said they get winded faster in practice when they’ve been out of time.

Still, he’d like to think the Nuggets home-court advantage is for other reasons.

“If we were playing at sea level, we still have the depth to wear people out,” Karl said before the game. “With the aggressive nature we will hopefully play with tonight, that we’ve played with most of this season, and the speed of the game, hopefully altitude is the fourth or fifth priority.”

* Jackson said he doesn’t expect center Andrew Bogut to be the difference maker against the Nuggets. He said even if Bogut wasn’t still sporting a gimpy left ankle, that’s not his game.

“With all due respect, it’s not like Dwight Howard’s in a nuggets uniform, or Tim Duncan,” Jackson said. :That’s not how they beat you. (Bogut’s) presence is more felt when there’s a dominant big man and the team plays through the post. That’s not who the Nuggets are. They’re a fast-breaking, up-tempo, penetrating, drive-and-kick team. Now Bogut’s presence will be felt and we certainly appreciate having him as a rim protector and a post presence and a guy that understands the game offensively. He makes us better. But this is a team where you’ve got to be committed to running back.”

That figures to bode well for the other centers. Rookie Festus Ezeli and veteran Andris Biedrins have the wheels to get up and down the floor. But Ezeli will be sporting a hefty knee brace on his right knee, which he said he sprained a little bit last game. Biedrins said his sore back is not 100 percent, but he’s ready to play and he’ll give all he has.

Ezeli said the brace is more preventive and his knee feels “alright.” He knows he might get a bulk of minutes. He said he couldn’t sleep Friday night because of the excitement.

“Obviously they like to attack the glass, something I can help with. They like to run, and I can help there as well. They just have big guys that are very effective. I think my length can bother them. I can run, I can push the pace with them. That’s a real big key to the game I can help with. They have big guys that play above the rim. I think I’m up there with them. I can be effective in this game.”

* Rookie Evan Fournier will start for the Denver Nuggets. That means forward Kenneth Faried, known as manimal, will not. Karl said he will be in uniform but wouldn’t reveal more than that.

Marcus Thompson

  • Stan

    I’m dreaming that I’m watching the start of a Warrior playoff game. I must be nuts!