The Golden State Warriors aren’t going away.
The Warriors made that abundantly clear Wednesday night when they hammered the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers in Oakland, Calif., 115-94.
Amazingly, it was the first time in the more than 30 years the Clippers and Warriors have shared the Pacific Division—dating back to the Clips’ first season as the San Diego Clippers in 1978-79—that the two teams met when they were first and second, respectively, in the division.
The Warriors took control early and never looked back as Stephen Curry was in a zone. Curry hit nine of his first 10 shots and scored 25 of his 31 points in the first half.
Golden State led by as many as 18 points in the first quarter, outscored the Clippers in every quarter and cruised to the win.
David Lee continued his solid play for the Warriors with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
For Los Angeles, it was its second straight double-digit loss in as many nights after winning 17 games in a row.
Curry and Lee are playing well enough that the Warriors are almost certain to have an All-Star for the first time in more than a decade—the last Golden State player to appear in the midseason showcase was Latrell Sprewell in 1997.
Being in second place in the division and fifth in the Western Conference might not be a big deal for some franchises. But Golden State has made the playoffs exactly once since 1994 so this is a big deal for the Warriors.
With the win, Golden State climbed to within 2 ½ games of the Clippers in the Pacific and trail the fourth-place Memphis Grizzlies in the Western playoff chase by 2/1,000th of a percentage point.
Many were critical when Golden State hired Mark Jackson away from ESPN’s lead NBA broadcast crew to coach the team prior to the 2011-12 season and a 23-43 record in his first year at the helm did little to quiet the naysayers.
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Al Saracevic opined in September that Jackson had “two strikes against him” as Warriors’ coach.
But the players have responded in year two of Jackson’s term at the front of the bench. Wednesday night’s win improved Golden State’s mark this season to 22-10—one win shy of their 66-game victory total a season ago.
The defense is better. Youngsters such as Thompson and Barnes are providing energy. Curry is rounding back into form after being plagued by ankle problems for the past two seasons. Lee is being David Lee, which means he is scoring a bunch, rebounding a bunch and confounding the experts who try to beat the “overrated” drum against him.
Jack has brought a veteran presence to the club that can’t be undervalued.
It’s beginning to look a lot like the Clippers and Warriors are going to battle to the wire to see which team replaces the Los Angeles Lakers as kings of the Pacific.
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