Warriors win for resting

They may have held only a light practice, but the Warriors were nevertheless pretty successful Friday; Golden State couldn’t have scripted a better pair of outcomes than having the Lakers beat the Hornets and the Rockets knock off the Suns.

Phoenix is now all but cemented in the No. 6 spot, so their motivation against the Warriors on Monday may slacken.

Houston, meanwhile, is still right in the thick of the race for home-court advantage — and just a game behind No. 1 New Orleans — giving them plenty of reason to knock off Denver on Sunday, which is pretty much a necessity for the Warriors to sneak into the postseason.

Now it’s up to the Warriors to do their part.

** Something to watch for: Mickael Pietrus is suffering from tendonitis in his left knee, something that flared up during his rehab for the right groin/hamstring strain that cost him nine games. He said it’s nothing major, but it can’t be helping him regain his natural athleticism.

— Geoff


Don’t Stop Believin’?

I was trying to find some way in my gamer to compare the “WE BELIEVE” signs to the end of the Sopranos finale, where Journey’s playing over the jukebox and then, in that jarring instant, everything goes to black. When it aired, some people speculated it was supposed to represent a bullet to Tony’s head.

No speculation here: For the Warriors, that’s what Thursday’s loss to Denver was.

Sure, the body will keep moving through the final three games, and if the Nuggets somehow manage to get swept in their back-to-back against Utah and Houston over the weekend, there will be talk of new life. But even if Denver gags both those games, one of two other things would need to happen for Golden State to actually make the postseason.

Either: A) the Warriors will need to win in Phoenix — a place where they’re 5 for their last 46 — against a Suns team that may still be fighting for as many as two rounds of home-court advantage.

Or: B) the Nuggets will have to kick away a third straight game, against a Memphis team that will have less than nothing to play for, the only goal being to avoid injury before the final buzzer sounds and the last plane flight of the season takes off.

The chances of either seem about as remote as a reunion for Tony, Carmela, Meadow and A.J.

— Geoff


Inside: Postgame (vs. Nuggets)

You can imagine how melancholy the Warriors locker room was.
I went to the Nuggets locker room first. By the time I arrived in the Warriors locker room, the only player who hadn’t left the locker room or hopped in the shower was Mickael Pietrus. He just sat there, resting on his knees, staring nowhere.
The only smiles flashed came from Baron and Al Harrington when they signed autographs for Allen Iverson’s son. Monta kinda smiled for little A.I. As soon as that meet and greet was over, they all shifted back to somber.
They didn’t sound like they believed.

Melo and Iverson: 58 points on 24-for-40 shooting (60 percent)
B.D. and Jackson: 38 points on 14-for-41 shooting (34.1 percent)

*The Warriors scored 12 points off Denvers 16 turnovers. Denver scored 21 points off the Warriors 18 turnovers.

Denver: 9-for-19 from 3-point range
Warriors: 6-for-27 from 3-point range

*Baron had a tripple double (20 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds)
*Biedrins had 19 rebounds, six offensivem as the Warriors outrebounded Denver 52-44
*Kelenna Azubuike led the Warriors reserves with 10 minutes, 39 seconds. Pietrus played just 10:09, Barnes 6:22 and Croshere 2:56. Conversely, the Nuggets got 26 minutes from J.R. Smith, 23 from Najera nad 15 from Kleiza.

Baron Davis
“It’s tough, but you’ve got to finish strong. You’ve got to finish strong. This was a tough one to swallow, but you’ve got to finish strong. We’ve got to come prepared Saturday night and win the basketball game.”

“We’ve had our moments where we’ve felt fatigued, and fatigue has caught up with us. Despite everything, we have to keep our heads because we are a tough team, one of the top teams in the league. We just have to finish strong, get to 50 wins and see what happens. It’s tough to know that thais game could ultimately end your playoff hopes.”

“I thought we did an excellent job in the first half of getting the ball in the middle of the floor and working the middle of the floor. Every time they made a run or came back, we were able to get a layup or get someone in the paint for an easy shot. The second half, they really covered us and spaced us and we weren’t able to make plays, which we were able to do in the first half.”

Stephen Jackson:
“If me and Baron have bad shooting nights, we’re not going to win.”

“Once we started missing shots, turning the ball over, they became the aggressive team. Their two stars made some shots along with J.R. Smith. Melo hit some big shots and A.I. hit his free throws down the stretch. Their two big players made plays. It was just that they made the plays that we didn’t to win the game.”

“We still have games to play. We are not going to quit because we lost to Denver tonight. We are going to play this season out and see what happens.”

“I don’t think anyone was tired. A game like this, it’s impossible to be tired. It’s impossible to be tired because we have to go out there and play. But we didn’t make the plays. They just made the plays. Their stars stepped up.”

Don Nelson:
“Just a half a step off, playing the way we really needed to win this big game. This was a huge game. I loved the game. I loved every part of it. I just wish we would have played a little bit better.”

“They know this was a game that was probably going to determine who makes the playoffs. It’s not etched in stone yet. I think they still have two tough games, and we have the Phoenix Suns and two games taht we should win. … We won’t know until the last game of the season. So I definitely w ant to win our next two games and see where we are. We know their schedule — the have Houston at home and Utah on the road. Tonight, they’re on top and it looks good for them.”

Allen Iverson:
“It was hard tonight. That is a tough team. They have so many talented players on their team, and it’s even rougher tyring to play that team in front of this home crowd. They ahve one of the best home crowds in the NBA.”

“J.R. Smith played one of the biggest roles tonight. To come in here and beat a team like this, you need everybody. Every guy on the court who is playing, you need the guys not on the court cheering everybody on because we are in here by ourselves. There are 20,000 people in here. Everybody brought it tonight. The thing with the noise in that arena is that you want to shut them up. I know how it is to play at home, an dthat makes the basket that much bigger. It makes it that much easier to get a stop when you have everybody cheering for you, everybody wanting your shots to go in. It is that much harder with everything at stake tonight – and to be able to get a win tonight is great.”

George Karl:
“In the first quarter, we got a hungry team, a fired team that ran by us. We missed a lot of easy shots, some layups during that stretch. They were just getting to the rim on every transition and penetration. Then we went to the zone and I thought A.I. was incredible. His defensive presence in the zone just gave us a confidence to defend them that we didn’t have early.”

“We kind of had a strong hold Baron. It wasn’t a box-and-one (zone), but where ever Barfon was, we wanted to play him tight. He likes to roam in the middle of the zone. I thought Eddie (Najera) was there most of the time always being in his way. They missed some open threes that they make sometimes, too. That was big.”

“I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet. … But if they win all their games the rest of the way, we’ve got to win two.”


Inside: Practice (4/9)

** First, the hard news: Rookie forward Brandan Wright may not be available Thursday. He’s being termed “day-to-day” by the team because of a strained left groin he suffered in the Warriors’ 140-132 win over Sacramento on Tuesday.

Wright couldn’t say when exactly the injury occurred, but he didn’t notice it until he started cooling down after his 6-minute stint in the second quarter.

“It’s probably like a day-to-day thing. Nothing serious, though,” said Wright, who suffered a similar injury during his high school career. “It can linger if you don’t get on top of it, but I’m definitely going to be on it three or four times a day, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Warriors coach Don Nelson said Wright’s absence makes it “triply good” that Mickael Pietrus has returned from his own bout with a strained groin.

** Nelson said that he would be making changes from the game plan that led to a 119-112 defeat in Denver two weeks ago, but his team didn’t meet very long for its shootaround (they won’t be holding one tomorrow because of the early 5 p.m. start time dictated by TNT). So it’s doesn’t seem like there was that much new material to go over.

** The Warriors’ locker room is filled with good guys who are even better quotes, but Pietrus can be on a level all his own sometimes. Take this exchange from today’s Q&A:

How does this run compare with last year’s? Is it more intense? Are there more expectations?
It’s more intense because in the West, there’s no games for free right now, because I think everybody’s going to play until the end. We’ll see. I really want to go to the playoffs. Trust me, I really want to go. It’s fun. Did you come last year in the playoffs?

Oh, yeah.
Did you wear that “We Believe” shirt?

I grabbed one, yeah.
You have to wear it, not grab it. You have to wear it, right? [Here, MP turns to Warriors PR official Raymond Ridder.] Hey, tomorrow we need like 23,000 “We Believe” shirts! [Replies Ridder: “And, we need everybody there at 5 o’clock.”] A 5 o’clock game tomorrow. I want to talk to all the fans to get their drink on, get their T-shirt on and let’s ready to war. That’s it. Be there at 5, because it’s going to be a fun party tomorrow. Trust me.

— Geoff


Inside: Pre-game (vs. Kings)

There was a certain buzz in the Warriors locker room. You can tell it’s that time of year when the TV people come out.
“Now they want to talk to us,” Harrington said through a laugh.

* Surprisingly, the Tennessee-Stanford women’s game was on, not another NBA telecast. And some of the players were watching, too. Monta got a kick out of the way one of the Cardinal shot free throws.
“That’s how I’mma start shooting my free throws,” he said, mimmicking the two-hand toss.
Al said he thought Tennessee would win the national title, but “Wiggins is cold-blooded, though.”

*Mickael Pietrus is playing. He had his game shorts on. When asked if he was going to make it, he pointed to the jersey hanging in his locker room. He didn’t sound too sure about how he would feel out there, having missed nine games.

*Nelson’s pre-game was dominated by the topic of Monta Ellis’ defense. Here’s the rundown of that Q&A.

What can you do about Monta’s defense?
“Do more drills, defensive drills. We’ll do some more slides tomorrow. I don’t think in a practice situation you’re going to make people better at what they do. They can concentrate harder, they can get a little better. But you’re going to have to give Monta help throughout his NBA career. That’s what coaching’s all about.”

He gets screened a lot. Will his getting stronger help?
“Well, he’s small and he’s skinny. … The other guys in his stature haven’t improved all that much in guarading the screen and roll. It kind of is an area that is effective against small guards, the screen and roll.”

Can you switch then instead of having Monta fight through the screen?
“Well, he’s not a very good defender in the box. With Baron, you can get away with it. Jack certainly is a pretty good defender in the box. There’s more of a size factor the closer you get to the basket.”

Doesn’t Phoenix switch with Steve Nash?
“Nash is not a good defender. He has a same problem.”

Does he want to be a good defender?
He wants to be a great player. That’s part of it. Players always see offense first and defense second. I think he really wants to be a great player.

Does Monta leak out too much?
“That’s not a defensive problem. He’s quick enough to do that anyway and still guard his guy. The problem that we have is that our guard are penetrators. That’s the way our offense is geared, and often times when they penetrate, somebody makes a mistake and doesn’t come back on the defensive rotations. So we’re vulnerable some from people running against us. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just an individual thing. They’ve got to know when they’re back and know who’s position it is. But, I don’t know, Monta is a small two guard at this point, and there are problems defensively with small two guards in this league.”


Inside: Shootaround (vs. Kings)

The morning practice was fairly eventful. Here were the highlights:

*Nelson walked from the court to the hallway to talk to the media. But before he said a word, he walked back toward the court to shout something to his rookie.
“Belinelli,” he screamed to Marco, “$100 fine for your friend sleeping in shootaround!”
There were several laughs as all the attention pointed to Marco’s peeps, posted in the stands sporting sweats, a red long-sleeve shirt and some aviator sunglasses. He was shocked.
“Bull#@&%!” he retorted in jest through a thick accent. “Bull#@&%!”
Marco’s friend said he wasn’t sleep, he was just relaxing behind his shades.

*Nelson said Mickael Pietrus was playing tonight, his first time since the first Lakers game. Of course, Pietrus wasn’t so sure.
“I feel all right,” MP2 said. “I’mma see tonight.”
When I told Pietrus that Nellie said he was playing, he looked a bit surprised.
“He said that?”
“Yes, he did. Is it not official yet?”
“It’s official when you see my name on the list (lineup).”

*A jewel of honesty from from Nellie on Stephen Jackson’s play of late:
“He’s been awful. He has not been playing well. … We’re looking for him to come out of it. … He’s our emotional leader. No question. … He’s got to rise above that and he understands that as a leader and a captain.”

*The Warriors seemed light and carefree despite what is on the line. As a group of them filed toward the locker room, Al Harrington was playfully interviewing Andris Biedrins.
“Andris,” Harrington said through a grin, mimicking the media types, “How does it feel to get 15 rebounds?” then passed the invisible mic to Biedrins’ lips.
“Andris, how does it feel to be 7 feet and be a good free throw shooter now.”


Can the Warriors win 4?

I’m thinking the Denver Nuggets have two losses left in them, so the Warriors need to go 4-1 to make the playoffs. That looks feasible based on the schedule.
Of the Warriors five remaining games, four are at home (Sacramento, Denver, Los Angeles Clippers, Seattle).
There was a time that you could guarantee four victories left for the Ws. The league’s elite couldn’t win at Oracle. The Kings, Nuggets, league’s scrubs didn’t stand a chance.
At this point last season, the Kings, Clippers and Sonics — three of the remaining visitors — would’ve have stood a chance at the Oracle. Now, it’s hard to say. After home losses to Minnesota, Chicago and Atlanta, and near losses to visiting New Jersey, New York and Indiana, how confident are you the Warriors will get it done? Or will they slip up and suffer one last potentially fatal missed opportunity?