Warriors head to Denver lacking playoff experience
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)
David Lee has worked for eight seasons to be in the NBA playoffs. The last time he even attended a postseason game was between the Bulls and Wizards in Chicago before the 2005 draft.
''It's been a long time to wait,'' said Lee, who spent his first five seasons with the New York Knicks. ''I'm having to do more to calm myself down than to get hyped to be ready for it.''
A lot of Lee's teammates can relate.
Andrew Bogut is the only Golden State Warriors starter who has ever been to the playoffs. Only five players have been to the postseason. Heck, only five players on the current roster were even in the NBA the last time the franchise made the playoffs in 2007.
When the sixth-seeded Warriors begin their first-round series at third-seeded Denver on Saturday, it will be uncharted territory for most involved, including second-year coach Mark Jackson. For the first time, the former NBA point guard will be in a suit on the bench instead of a jersey on the court when the ball is thrown up for the first time.
Jackson was adamant after the team's light practice Thursday that playoff experience matters little. He also recalled when the Boston Celtics - led by Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson - knocked his Knicks out in the first round his rookie year in 1987-88 in four games.
''Experience didn't send us home,'' Jackson said. ''The Boston Celtics, with four Hall of Famers, sent us home.''
Denver's George Karl has Jackson well outnumbered on the NBA sidelines. Karl will be coaching his 22nd squad in the playoffs.
Jackson, who had never coached at any level when the Warriors hired him two years ago, deflected the attention to his players when pressed about how his abilities will be tested.
''Every series I've ever been a part of, the best team has won,'' he said. ''Phil Jackson didn't, to me, outcoach Larry Bird. He won. He did an incredible job. (The Lakers) had the two baddest boys on the floor in Shaq and Kobe.''
Meager expectations also are keeping the Warriors loose.
Lee posted a photo on Twitter in the afternoon of ESPN magazine's preseason prediction, which gave Golden State a zero percent chance to make the playoffs. Even though the Warriors finished 47-35 and made monumental strides on defense and rebounding this season, they are still treating themselves as the underdogs in this season.
Then again, the Nuggets won an NBA franchise-best 57 games and became just the 11th team in league history to lose three or fewer home games in a season. They finished 38-3 at the Pepsi Center, part of the reason Golden State left a day early to adjust to the altitude in the Mile High City.
''I don't think anybody expected us to be in this position,'' Lee said. ''We were talking last night, most of us were deciding (last year) which beach we were going to this weekend, are we going to ship the car out for the summer or leave it here for another week. Last night felt like it was just another game we were finishing with and beginning our new journey. I'm the most excited guy in this gym right now.''
Getting too anxious is also part of the concern, especially in a series where both teams like to push the pace.
Denver led the league with 106.1 points per game this season. Golden State was seventh with 101.2, including Stephen Curry's NBA-record 272 3-pointers this season.
Veterans such a Bogut, Richard Jefferson, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Andris Biedrins - the only player still on the roster when Golden State upset top-seeded Dallas in 2007 - have tried to offer advice to teammates about what to expect in the playoffs. Mostly, it's just to keep doing what got them to this point.
''It's not like you can tell them, `It's this or it's that,''' Bogut said. ''At the end of the day, it's 5-on-5 basketball. You still have to get stops to win games. It's just everything is magnified because there's more media attention and the games are all sold out. I don't think the game changes. I think the environment around the game changes.''
Curry watched his dad, Dell Curry, in the playoffs growing up. The last time he attended a playoff game was in his hometown of Charlotte, N.C., when the Orlando Magic swept the Bobcats in four games in 2010.
While he has never played in the NBA playoffs, Curry has often been at his best in the biggest games of his career.
Curry dazzled at Davidson, leading the tiny college to the regional finals in 2008. He has also scored a career-high 54 points in a loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 27 and had 47 points in a loss at the Lakers last Friday.
''For me, it's about consistency and how you approach the big game,'' Curry said. ''You don't get too hyped for the Madison Square Gardens, the Staples Centers, the nationally televised games more so than you do a Tuesday night game against the Phoenix Suns. It all has to be the same mindset so when you get into those situations where the moment is increased a little bit, you're prepared for it.''
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP