DENVER -- The Warriors have gone from embracing unfamiliar territory to depending on unknown entities, from introductions to the NBA postseason to having to endure it on the fly.

They'll greet this beast with freshly baptized folks, three of whom have taken on particularly greater significance.

Suddenly, rookie forward Harrison Barnes is indispensable, fellow rookie Draymond Green is essential and coach Mark Jackson, making his playoffs debut from the bench, will need some magic to have a reasonable chance of staying with, much less conquering, the Denver Nuggets.

"We've all got to step it up," Jackson said Sunday afternoon.

This trial by sudden and unexpected fire -- improvising, relying on three men in a realm they've never known, after losing a star -- is not how this long-suffering Warriors franchise would choose to announce its newfound relevancy.

Jackson already was in the spotlight. He faces the scrutiny that comes with being a high-profile postseason rookie considered more of a motivator than a tactician. One of his goals in this first-round series, win or lose, has to be avoiding the appearance of being schooled by veteran Nuggets coach George Karl.

Any such pressure from that, however, evaporated with the loss of Jackson's only All-Star, power forward David Lee. With no logical path to winning this series, Jackson and his staff can flex whatever creativity they might have.


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Barnes and Green are the players best suited to provide what the Warriors will need to keep up with a team they have beaten once in five tries this season.

"For Draymond and Harrison, they're going to get an opportunity," Jackson said. "With anybody on any team, you always hope for an opportunity. You wait on it. You talk about what you would do.

"Well, now it's here. It's a great opportunity for them to take it up another notch."

Barnes is the most athletic Warriors regular, which is germane insofar as the Nuggets are among the league's most athletic teams. At 6-foot-8, the seventh overall pick in last June's draft is a natural small forward who can slide to power forward against a Denver team lacking a bruising counterpoint.

Barnes will have to be more forceful on offense, partly to offset the loss of Lee's offense and partly because he has the ability to score a multiple ways. He leads the team in highlight dunks but also can drain the 3-pointer -- he made 5 of 6 from there against the Nuggets on Jan. 13.

That, by the way, was one of his most productive games: a season-high-tying 21 points, with six rebounds, in 29 minutes.

Barnes can match up with the gallery of Denver wings, Andre Iguodala, Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, as well as dynamic but undersized (6-8) power forward Kenneth Faried, who is expected to play in Game 2 here Tuesday night.

Green, at 6-7, also will have to be a big part of this equation. What the second-round pick from Michigan State lacks in offensive skill is often equalized by energy and instincts.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge," he said. "I know it's not going to be easy. I'm pretty sure there are going to be some more minutes there. I've done what I can do to stay in shape and get ready for this moment."

We know Green has the full trust of Jackson. Though haunted by his failure to prevent Denver veteran Andre Miller from making the game-winning shot in the final seconds of Game 1, Green is the rookie most likely to be on the floor late in a close game.

"I didn't want to see that play," Green acknowledged with a wince. "But I forced myself to watch that play over and over, because I want to know what I did wrong for him to get a half an inch on me just to get the finish. I figured it out."

Green sounded antsy to atone for being on the losing end of the decisive play. His chance will come, as will that of Barnes, a starter who rarely finishes. Veteran Carl Landry also will be summoned to fill the void left by Lee's absence.

"It's a part of coaching, part of making adjustments," Jackson said. "The players will dictate who plays."

We know what Landry does. He's a solid, complementary player. The Warriors need that and more to stay in this series.

They need Barnes' gifts and Green's fury and Jackson's ingenuity. They need these neophytes, suddenly in a bind, to deliver like they've been here before.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/1montepoole.