Warriors' quest for playoffs starts in Utah

Warriors' quest for playoffs starts in Utah
February 19, 2013, 3:30 pm
Share This Post

Programming note: Warriors-Jazz coverage gets under way tonight at 5:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area! Stick around after the final horn for Warriors Postgame Live!

Seven days after dropping their fifth consecutive game, the Golden State Warriors begin a 30-game sprint for their second playoff berth in the last 19 seasons.

The quest starts Tuesday night in Utah, against a Jazz team lurking just one game behind their visitors.

Defense was a problem for Golden State over their skid, allowing an average of 118 points per game. The Jazz average less than 100 a contest, and the Warriors will have fresh legs -- and a renewed determination -- after the All-Star break.

Head coach Mark Jackson's message to his players before the break was to be proud of the 30-22 record they posted.

"Do not let anybody fool you into believing that we should be walking around with our heads down," Jackson said a week go. "Because there are teams in the Western Conference that would do anything to be sitting where we're sitting."

[REWIND: Free-falling Warriors enter All-Star break with heads high]

The Warriors had the option to congregate in Oakland and travel with the team or simply meet in Utah, but no matter how they arrived, they got their minds right for the second half by practicing Monday night.

The Jazz are expected to have the limited service of guard Gordon Hayward, whose sprained right shoulder kept him, and his 13.5 points, 2.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game, out of the last 10 contests.

They'll be putting a legal distraction in their rear-view mirror as well. Assistant coach Sidney Lowe was recently arrested on income tax charges. After missing Monday's practice, he's expected to be back with the team Tuesday.

"It's a personal matter," head coach Tyrone Corbin was quoted. "We'll deal with it."

The bottom line, as Golden State takes an important first step towards the 2013 postseason, is that the Jazz are a team the 2012-'13 Warriors should beat.

A loss would drop the Warriors into a seventh-place tie with Utah, extend their season-long losing streak to six games, and plant the seed of doubt in the minds of the fan base that collapse is possible.

[REWIND: Five reasons Warriors fans shouldn't panic]

A win would give Golden State its first two-game season sweep in Salt Lake City since the 1980-'81 season and reaffirm the confidence the team showed when they capped a perfect five-game road trip by beating the defending-champion Heat in December.

Matchup to watch: Andrew Bogut vs. Al Jefferson
Facing the Jazz used to mean facing one of the top point guards in the league, but with Deron Williams in Brooklyn, the focus shifts to the frontcourt, where Andrew Bogut and David Lee will square off with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

The Warriors are expected to start stretching out center Andrew Bogut's minutes, who is still recovering from a broken ankle suffered in January 2012 and looking to build chemistry with his new team.

The 7-foot Australian hasn't been his typical defensive-stopping self, and he's aware of it, expressing the desire to become more of a vocal leader for the Warriors.

"It's hard because I haven't been a part of so many games," Bogut said last Tuesday after playing in his 10th game this year. "Defensively, definitely I take it personally because I'm part of our defense and a part of the team. I need to do a better job in that area."

He'll have his hands full with Jefferson, who has a creative knack for finishing around the rim and leads the Jazz in points (17.5) and rebounds (9.5) this season.

Bogut, 28, was also cleared to play in the second night of back-to-backs, and the Warriors return home to face the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night.

More Team Talk