Several All-Stars believe Warriors are playoff bound

Several All-Stars believe Warriors are playoff bound
February 18, 2013, 5:00 pm
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"They have a lot of good guys on that team. They can really score." -- Blazers power foward LaMarcus Aldridge (USA TODAY IMAGES)

They're definitely a playoff team.
—Grizzlies power foward Zach Randolph on Warriors

HOUSTON -- Warriors' forward David Lee helped cure the Bay Area's Super Bowl hangover, ending a span of 13 consecutive losses.

Ever since the 49ers fell to the Baltimore Ravens on Feb. 3, the Warriors have gone 0-5 and the Sharks have tallied a couple points but remained winless with a 0-4-2 stretch. Even Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Stephen Curry were skunked in their two All-Star weekend events.

But the West's 143-138 win over the East Sunday night set a winning tone for the Warriors' unofficial second half. Golden State limped into the break with a season-worst five-game losing streak, one in which they allowed an average of 118 points.

Head coach Mark Jackson repeated that the Warriors were a "no excuse" team, though it was clear to fans an opposing teams alike that the team was fatigued. The starting backcourt of 24-year-old Curry and 23-year-old Thompson, a tandem the team relies on for an average of 36.4 points a night, is averaging more minutes per game than ever before.

"Perfect time for the All-Star break," Lee said before departing for Houston.

Even after the skid, the Warriors sit in sixth in the Western Conference, 5 1/2 games ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers and the fateful ninth position. With strong play on the road, something the team has been unable to do in the past, and critical wins over teams like the Heat and Thunder, Golden State put itself in a position to sustain a five-game losing streak. And now, with 30 games to play, the Warriors can earn their second playoff berth in the past 19 seasons if they can take care of shop down the stretch.

In fact, with 16 of their final 22 games played in the friendly confines of Oracle Arena, it would be a disaster if they missed the postseason this year.

"They're definitely a playoff team," said Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph. "You got Steph Curry, who should have been (an All-Star). You got David, one of the best forwards in the league. So definitely. That organization is going in the upward direction."

Randolph isn't lying. Curry's numbers make him a legitimate All-Star snub, Lee leads the league in double-doubles with 33, and Mark Jackson is on pace to usher the second biggest year-to-year improvement in franchise history.

Other All-Stars are taking notice. And the consensus seems to be a profound respect for the backcourt tandem of Curry and Thompson, and their ability to shoot the ball.

"Those two young guards are nice," said Knicks' center Tyson Chandler following his prediction that the Warriors would play postseason basketball.

"I do think they'll be a playoff team," agreed Paul George of the Pacers. "We know they're a team that can really shoot the ball."

"They have a lot of good guys on that team," said LaMarcus Aldrige after also predicting the team would reach the postseason. "They can really score."

It's Aldridge's Trail Blazers that occupy that ninth spot in the conference standings.

All-Star host James Harden, whose Rockets sit 2 1/2 games behind the Warriors and dismantled the team twice during their losing streak, gave his affirmative answer with a bit more brevity.

"Of course they are," Harden said.

Golden State has work to do before its fan base can feel so assured, and the team is ready.

"We're going to come back refreshed and ready to go," said Lee. "We're determined."

The race for the playoffs begins Tuesday night in Utah against a Jazz team just one game behind the Warriors in the conference standings.

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