DENVER Stephen Curry laced up his shoes before practice without a soul around him.
As soon as the Warriors guard was ready to step onto the Pepsi Center floor, reporters swarmed him.
These days, Curry never is left open on the court.
The Denver Nuggets certainly don't plan to give Curry much breathing room tonight in Game 2 of a first-round playoff series. They and the rest of the NBA know how dangerous Curry is with an open look at the rim.
Granted, Curry struggled in the series opener Saturday, making just 7 of 20 shots in Golden State's 97-95 loss. But with David Lee gone for the postseason because of a torn right hip flexor, the Warriors are counting even more on him.
He expects more from himself, too. Curry can't afford another slow start. In Game 1, he missed his first nine shots. Curry rediscovered his touch in the second half, scoring 15 of his 19 points.
"Hopefully, that rhythm I built in the second half will build for the rest of the series," Curry said after practice Monday. "I'm not worried about that cold start coming back anytime soon. I'm going to try to get to the basket a little more, to get my rhythm."
He will see plenty of different looks as the Nuggets constantly rotate fresh defenders on him. Ty Lawson did most of the chasing against Curry, with Andre Iguodala, Wilson Chandler and rookie Evan Fournier chipping in.
Basically, Curry never had a moment's peace when he was on the floor nor will he. The Nuggets even blitzed the Warriors' pick-and-roll plays just to disrupt Curry's timing.
"I expect the same," Curry said with a shrug. "Make some adjustments on our end to try to go back at that."
Lee's absence has Nuggets coach George Karl a little on edge. He's not sure how the Warriors will make up for missing their All-Star power forward, but he knows Curry could play a big role. When Lee sat out at New York on Feb. 27, Curry erupted for 54 points.
"Incredibly scary, because Curry was fantastic," Karl said.
Golden State coach Mark Jackson was coy when asked about who might start in Lee's place. Carl Landry and rookie Draymond Green are possibilities.
Another option is to go with a smaller lineup with guard Jarrett Jack, who endorses that plan and vows to work on his low-post moves just in case.
"I'm a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy," Jack said. "Power forward is definitely in my repertoire. If (Jackson) calls on me to do it, I'll be ready."
Regardless of who steps in at power forward, Lawson expects Klay Thompson and Curry to see more shots. Thompson had a team-high 22 points Saturday.
"A lot more focus on them and trying to slow them down," Lawson said.
Curry is hard to stop once he finds his rhythm. He's also hard to keep up with, as Lawson found out. The Denver point guard was all over Curry in the corner, yet Curry made a tying three-pointer with 14.5 seconds remaining, setting the stage for Andre Miller's winning layup.
"Just try to keep fresh legs on him," Lawson said of stopping Curry. "Because the same person chasing him the whole game might get tired."
The Nuggets will have some fresh legs returning to the lineup. Forward Kenneth Faried expects to play after sitting out the first game because of a sprained left ankle. The player nicknamed "Manimal" provides an energy boost.
"He's an all-effort guy," center Andrew Bogut said. "It's not like they're going to throw the ball into the post and let him get a one-on-one. That's not his strength. His strength is offensive rebounds, hustle points, loose balls. He's one of the best in the league in doing that.
"To limit his production, you have to go out of your comfort zone, energy-wise, to match his intensity."
Saturday, Bogut returned from a bone bruise on his surgically repaired left ankle and contributed nine points, 14 rebounds, three assists and four blocks.
So, is he 100 percent healthy again?
"I'm not going to put a number on it, not going to say I'm healthy or not healthy," Bogut said. "I'm here playing in the playoffs."