Warriors look to even season series with Denver

Warriors look to even season series with Denver
January 13, 2013, 12:15 pm
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The Warriors are 1-2 against Denver this season, and after Sunday, won't see them again unless it's in the postseason. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The time is now for the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors last made the playoffs six years ago. The 2006-07 “We Believe” season was the only postseason appearance in the last 18 seasons.

One-for-Eighteen! That’s just more than a five percent success rate.

So why shouldn’t this season feel good?

The Warriors (23-12) have already matched their win total from last year’s lockout-shortened season. It’s the team’s best start since the 1991-92 season.

Golden State currently has the fifth best record in the Western Conference. They trail the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies.

As the Los Angeles Lakers no longer own the Pacific Division, replaced by their Clippers roommate, there’s not exactly an absolute brick wall blocking the Warriors’ playoff hopes.

After a minor oh-no-here-we-go stretch of two games, an embarrassing loss down south to the Clippers followed by a fall to the industrious power game of the Grizzlies at home, the Warriors once again showed resolve.

When the Portland Trail Blazers came to town on Friday night with a four-game winning streak, having won seven of 10 and surging up from behind in the standings, the Warriors didn’t fold, but pushed back.

The Warriors have proven they belong amongst quality opponents and have an 11-3 record against opponents with winning records.

That trait will serve Golden State well coming into tonight’s road assessment against the Denver Nuggets.

Nothing Easy
The Nuggets hang directly over the Warriors’ shoulders in the standings, recovering from a slow start to the season that included an absurdly challenging road-heavy schedule.

The Nuggets have won four consecutive games and are 13-2 on their home court. One of those wins at the Pepsi Center in Denver came with a defeat of the Warriors, a 102-91 victory on Nov. 23.

The Warriors are 1-2 against Denver this season.

The Battle Inside
Both the Clippers and Grizzlies outworked the Warriors in the paint before Golden State outscored Portland 48-32 in the paint on Friday.

Denver offers a further challenge in this area as the best rebounding team in the NBA at 46.4 rebounds per game. Denver forward and hustle guy Kenneth Faried offers the biggest threat, averaging 10.2 rebounds and 12.3 points per game.

With six players averaging double-digits in scoring, the Warriors will have plenty of matchups to contain. The Nuggets are led in scoring by forward Danilo Gallinari (16.4 points per game) and Ty Lawson (14 points and 6.8 assists).

Star shooting guard Andre Iguodala is averaging 13.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game and will be a test for Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes.

Golden State doesn’t appear content
Head coach Mark Jackson seems to have a pretty good perspective on the moment. Warriors fans have savored the success into January, while players seem to understand it without settling for it.

Jackson has taken nearly every opportunity to tell the media that he expects greater things than what’s been accomplished thus far.

Jackson said after outlasting the scoring of Damian Lillard in the win against Portland: “This is preparing us; where we expect to go. In those games, you’re going to have to find ways to stop special players and this is a great preparation for us.”

A vote for All-Star
Lillard, an Oakland product and the league’s top rookie for the Portland Trail Blazers, may have been the star with 37 points in his team’s Friday night loss at Oracle.

But it was Lillard after the game who gave praise to Golden State’s star point guard, Stephen Curry.

“I think he is an All-Star,” Lillard said. “He can really shoot the ball, he can really pass the ball and he changes pace really well. I think he is one of the best point guards in the league, he should be an All-Star this year and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

Follow @jimmypspencer for more Warriors news and analysis.