The Golden State Warriors have managed to stay in the Western Conference playoff race despite major injuries to two of their stars.
Richardson, who has led Golden State in scoring each of the last three seasons, has missed the last 22 games with a broken right hand suffered on Dec. 30. He also missed eight games from Dec. 4-17 with a left knee bruise.
After averaging a career-high 23.2 points in 75 games last season, Richardson is averaging only 12.7 points in 23 games. Although injuries have limited his scoring touch this season, his teammates will be glad to see him return.
“That’s like putting a puzzle together and missing one piece,” said Stephen Jackson, who was acquired by Golden State (25-29) from Indiana on Jan. 17. “We need J-Rich a lot and it’s going to be a blessing to have him back and I can’t wait to play with him.”
Jackson matched his season high with 36 points and also had a season-high eight assists in the Warriors’ 120-101 win over New York on Wednesday in their final game before the All-Star break. Golden State shot a season-high 60.0 percent from the floor, and led by as many as 31 points.
Jackson is averaging 22.7 points—7.5 points better than his season average — in his last six games.
Monta Ellis had 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting against the Knicks, and scored 28 points on 13-of-16 shooting in just 21 minutes in the sophomores’ 155-114 over the rookies in Friday’s NBA rookie challenge.
Ellis, who had a shoulder injury, and Richardson both missed Golden State’s first game against Memphis (14-41) this season, a 144-135 road loss on Jan. 3.
Golden State has lost five straight games to the Grizzlies, but could be poised to snap that streak thanks to a decisive homecourt advantage coming into this game. After going 21-20 at home in 2005-06, the Warriors have won four of their last five at Oracle Arena and are 19-9 overall there.
Golden State hasn’t made the playoffs since 1993-94, but is in a tie with the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans for ninth place in the West, one-half game behind Minnesota for the final postseason berth.
The Warriors’ Baron Davis, out since Feb. 3 with a knee injury requiring surgery, is expected to miss another week
The Grizzlies, meanwhile, own the worst road record in the league at 3-24. They’ll be looking to avoid their sixth straight road loss after falling 121-105 to Seattle on Tuesday.
Memphis is allowing an average of 114.8 points on 50.8 percent shooting during its road skid.
“We’ve got to take the challenge of playing defense,” said Pau Gasol, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds. “If we don’t want to play defense and stop people, it’s going to be hard.”
Mike Miller led the Grizzlies with 20 points on Tuesday, and scored a season-high 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including 9-of-12 from 3-point range, in last month’s win over the Warriors.