The Warriors have the younger coach, the thinner roster, the road disadvantage and generally seem similar but lesser than the Nuggets in almost every significant way.

But they also have Stephen Curry, who is different from and better than anybody else in this playoff series.

Which obviously puts enormous responsibility on Curry but also just as much focus on Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who cannot let the series' most important weapon get taken away or marginalized by Denver's defensive schemes or intensity.

"For Steph, the great ones still find a way, even though you try to take something away, to figure it out and punish you," Jackson said this week.

The Warriors have to do a lot of things to upset Denver in this series: Slow down the Nuggets' torrid fast break, keep Denver off the offensive glass, avoid piling up fouls and get as many players as possible to supplement Curry's production.

And even though the Nuggets were an absurd 38-3 at home this season, the Warriors also have to pilfer one of the first two games in Denver, starting Saturday; teams that go up 2-0 have historically won the series 94 percent of the time.

I think the Warriors can do some of those things -- it's not like Denver is an overwhelming physical mismatch for the finesse Warriors.

Both teams are going to do a lot of things they like to do; it's just that the Nuggets do most of them better than the Warriors.


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Which is why I asked Curry: Do you want the responsibility of winning or losing on your shoulders?

"Why not, man?" he said with a shrug this week. "I mean, I don't think many people expected us to be in this situation coming into this season.

"I have an opportunity to help my team do something a lot of people didn't think we could do. And win a series against a tough Denver team."

The point isn't that Curry has to score 40 points a game or make every 3-pointer he takes in the fourth quarter, though it would be nice for the Warriors if he could approximate either thing.

It's that Curry has to affect the game in every facet -- play solid defense against Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, avoid turnovers and also force Denver's defense into full-time scramble mode.

And Jackson has to adjust to whatever Denver coach George Karl does defensively to limit Curry.

If the Nuggets play him the way they did during Denver's 3-1 season-series victory, they will use their fleet of rangy mid-sized players to switch every screen and keep Curry away from easy midrange shots.

In that scenario, it's up to Curry to beat the bigger defenders when they switch and hit the shots they give him -- and for Jackson to run an offense that gets him to the best spots.

And if Denver blitzes Curry with traps, then he either has to find the open teammate or put his head down and attempt to crash through the double-team on his own.

The Warriors offense has to run through him, and get set up by him.

Jackson's point: Sure, Curry could go one-on-two if he wants to, but the smart play is for Curry to keep finding open teammates and trusting them to make the shot.

If great players never passed, Jackson said, "then we wouldn't know Steve Kerr like we know him today. Then we wouldn't know Robert Horry like we know him today."

But the great players are also the ones who make more pressure shots than anybody else -- and want them. Especially in the playoffs.

Does Curry want those shots now, even if Denver overplays him?

"I'm ready for it," Curry said.

He has to be. And Jackson has to put him in the best spots. It's on both of them; they're underdogs, but they're also the entire crux of this series.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.