Warriors-Nuggets Game 5 is Chase Center's first real playoff test

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Chase Center faces first real test with Warriors-Nuggets Game 5 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors, players and coaches, speak of Oracle Arena with a wistful reverence. Three championships have a way of creating fond memories.

They speak of Chase Center with a careful politeness. No championships. Yet.

They are prudently wary of making comparisons between their comfy old cave and their stylish new palace. Stephen Curry, for whom Oracle was his NBA cradle, where he evolved from cherubic rookie to two-time MVP to three-time champion, says it’s unfair.

It is.

And it will remain so until, or unless, Chase can develop its own identity and make its own history.

The first real opportunity comes Wednesday night in Game 5, when the Warriors will try to send the Nuggets back to Denver with a first-round exit and extinguished season.

“I’m sure everyone in the locker room dreamt of this moment,” Klay Thompson said on Tuesday. “The first closeout game ever at Chase Center. Incredibly exciting.”

Nothing measures the dedication of a fan base better than its response when given the chance to finish a postseason opponent at home. At night. The daylong anticipation. The pregame anxiety. The sublime collision of adoration and fury upon tip-off. As the game develops and the minutes tick away and pulses quicken, the engagement can become so intense it contains a sprinkle of rage.

Oracle had all of that. Had it in ear-busting magnificence in the 2007 playoffs, when the “We Believe” Warriors stunned the No. 1 seed Dallas Mavericks in the first round. Had it throughout the 2015 postseason, somehow cranking it up to another level when the Warriors took the court for Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And now, after two dry seasons in San Francisco, the Warriors are back in the championship chase at Chase. They’re now considered a betting favorite to come out of the Western Conference and reach the NBA Finals. Think Dub Nation can feel it?

Think the fan base realizes this probably is the last, best chance for Golden State’s three-ring club -- thirty-somethings Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Curry and Thompson -- to make one more run to the top?

“Closing out a series is always difficult,” Curry said, “so you’ve got to find whatever it is to motivate you to get over the hump.

“Don’t assume, just because we’re at home and feed off the home crowd that Denver is going to lay flat. They’re going to fight. You’ve got to expect that they’re going to play well.”

Games 1 and 2 at Chase delivered more than a few loud moments. But the games weren’t particularly close, two double-digit wins, and there was plenty of series to come. The Nuggets closed the gap in Denver, losing Game 3 by five and winning Game 4 by five.

But the Warriors are returning with a three-games-to-one series lead and the scent of triumph is now in the air. That has a way of pushing a hungry crowd to its zenith.

“Our crowd in Games 1 and 2 was fantastic,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We really need them in Game 5.

“If we come out and we give them something to cheer about, their noise is really effective. We feed off of the crowd, and the crowd feeds off of us.”

The identity associated with Chase Center is of a sparkling building with plush amenities and fans with various degrees of commitment to basketball. Even though the general affluence of the crowds at Oracle bumped up as the championships came, Chase takes it to an altogether higher level.

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This, then, is the first real moment to discover if the 18,064 in attendance possess the power and passion and lungs to raise the beautiful roof by the Bay.

The Warriors seem eager to do their part.

“Just get off to a good start, try to control the tempo and give our crowd something to get excited about early,” Curry said. “Create that atmosphere and then, hopefully, ride that wave for the whole 48.”

Chase Center wasn’t built to be another Oracle. Different city. Different vibe.

It was, however, built to be loud. To give the Warriors an advantage they can feel in their bones. With Game 5, we can begin to answer the question previously unfair to ask:

How much grit is beneath all that polish?

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