Wiggins, GP2 could feel love from Warriors fans in Denver originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
DENVER – As the Warriors left their team hotel in Denver for Thursday morning’s shootaround prior to their Game 3 matchup with the Nuggets in the first-round of the NBA playoffs, a large group of fans huddled around the team bus hoping for autographs. But a smaller group claimed their stake closer to the hotel’s door, waiting for one player.
Not Steph Curry, not Klay Thompson, not Draymond Green, not even Jordan Poole. These fans came to see Andrew Wiggins, and one dedicated fan even rocked Wiggins’ high school jersey when he attended Huntington Prep School in West Virginia.
That same fan made sure he was wearing the same Wiggins No. 22 high school jersey at Ball Arena for the Warriors’ 118-113 win to give Golden State a three-games-to-none lead in the series.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone predicted that there would be a whole lot of Warriors fans in Denver for Game 3. He was spot-on. The same likely will be true for Sunday’s Game 4, too.
As Curry went through his famed warmup, one half of the arena was full, chanting his name. The chants came for Klay and Draymond as well, but all Warriors could feel the energy of Dub Nation in Denver. For players like Wiggins, Thursday night was his first playoff game on the road with the team, and the fans just made it that much more enjoyable.
“Man, it’s all love,” Wiggins said following a wide smile and a few laughs. “One thing about these Warriors fans – whatever arena you go to, whatever city you’re in, they’re gonna follow and they’re gonna be there.
“That’s an amazing feeling to know you’re away, but you know you’ve still got home fans in the arena.”
There’s no doubt that Nuggets fans created a hostile environment. It was loud, there were some chants that can not be published here and a whole lot of fingers directed towards the Warriors that just happen to stand in the middle of one’s hand.
Mixed in, though, were cheers whenever the Warriors made highlight plays. Beneath the agony of Denver fans seeing another playoff defeat, some cheers were more than audible when Wiggins made his clutch 3-pointer with just over three minutes to go, giving Golden State a one-point lead.
“The love goes a long way,” Wiggins said.
He also was not the only one who came through in his first taste of the playoffs on the road as a Warrior. Gary Payton II was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and made all three of his 3-point attempts, giving him 11 points for the night, which all came in the first half.
As he has displayed all season long, his defense also can stop runs for the opposing teams and create them for the Warriors. That again was the case in Denver, and was a big reason why he was a plus-10 in 14 minutes off the bench.
His importance to the Warriors is far from a surprise at this point. For Payton, though, he wasn’t surprised one bit about how the fans came in droves to Denver.
“No, not at all,” he said when asked if he was in awe at all by how many Warriors fans showed up for Game 3. “That was done like halfway through the season. They’ve been everywhere – to New York … they’re everywhere.
“We kind of knew it was going to feel like a home game kind of and we’d have Dub Nation there with us. It was a great environment and they brought the energy.”
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Chase Center is still creating its own identity and certainly brought the energy for the first two games of this series. To Warriors fans, this isn’t anything new. They’re fittingly the Dead Heads of the NBA, following what makes them happiest in some cases and doing whatever they can for the players to feel that same love.
For Wiggins and Payton, the passion was felt well before the opening tip, and well before these playoffs began.
Home-court advantage can quickly disappear with the help of Dub Nation, and every team will take anything they can get for an upper-hand if it helps in the slightest to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy come June.
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