The Golden State Warriors pulled off one of the most remarkable playoff upsets in NBA history last spring, but fell from grace with a miserable start to this season. Their resurgence, however, has come about just as quickly.
The Warriors go for their 12th win in 14 games on Sunday when they visit the Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Lakers, who have swept their last two season series against the Warriors.
Golden State (11-8) was outscored by an average of 11.0 points in losing its first six games—a start that seemed to put its hopes for a second consecutive playoff appearance in jeopardy in the competitive Western Conference.
The Warriors, though, have rebounded with wins in 11 of their last 13 games, putting themselves in the middle of the pack in the West. Their only losses in that stretch are on the road against Atlantic Division-leading Boston and in overtime against Southeast Division-leading Orlando.
“I told you all that I wasn’t worried early in the season,” said point guard Baron Davis, leading the team with 23.2 points, 8.5 assists and 2.4 steals per game. “We got back to .500 quicker than I expected. But at the same time, knowing that we have our whole team together, anything is possible with these guys in this locker room.”
Suddenly, the Warriors are looking more like the team that upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs last season, becoming the first No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in a best-of-seven series in NBA history.
Part of the reason for the turnaround has been the return of Stephen Jackson, who missed the first seven games because of a league suspension. Golden State gave up 116.3 points per game without Jackson, but has held opponents to 102.2 with the team captain back on the court.
“I think from what I’ve seen with Stephen back in the lineup we can play up to the potential we had last year when we played real well,” coach Don Nelson said. “That’s what I hope for. I think if we stay healthy we can achieve that goal.”
Jackson had 28 points on Friday as Golden State overcame an 18-point deficit to beat Miami 120-113. Baron Davis added 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, when the Warriors rallied from 11 down to win for the fifth time in their last six home games.
“There were a lot of reasons we won tonight, none of which we probably deserved,” Nelson said. “We got away with one tonight and hopefully we learned a lesson and we’ll come and play for four quarters instead of two.”
The Warriors’ resurgence has pulled them even with the Lakers (11-8) in the Pacific.
Golden State, though, has lost eight straight games to Los Angeles since its 126-99 victory on April 18, 2005. The Lakers have won 13 of the last 14 meetings, and 24 of 26 home games against the Warriors since the 1994-95 season.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles overcame 51 points from Denver’s Allen Iverson to beat the Nuggets 111-107. Kobe Bryant scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as Los Angeles improved to 8-4 against opponents from the West.
The Lakers also improved to 10-3 when they score at least 100 points. They’re 1-5 when held below the century mark.
Bryant has averaged 36.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists in his last seven games against the Warriors—all Lakers wins.