Prolific scoring is nothing new in the Golden State Warriors’ wide-open offense. Stephen Jackson’s torrid shooting from behind the arc, however, is more than just the product of coach Don Nelson’s system.
Jackson looks to continue his hot 3-point shooting as the Warriors host the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday in search of their seventh win in eight games.
Golden State (39-23) leads the NBA in scoring at 110.8 points per game thanks to Nelson’s offense, which plays a pace as fast as any other team in the league. But the Warriors’ run-and-gun style doesn’t explain Jackson’s accuracy from beyond the arc lately.
The 6-foot-8 forward has made 23 of his 46 3-point attempts over his last five games to extend his streak of games with at least one 3-pointer to 22. Despite having played in only 53 games, Jackson has 134 3s—more than any other player on a Warriors team second in the league in 3-pointers, and just 11 shy of his career high set in 80 games in 2003-04.
“I am just shooting with confidence,” said Jackson, whose hot streak has come on the heels of an ankle injury that sidelined him two games in February. “My legs are getting stronger and I am starting to feel healthy again. I am in better shape now too now that I am not hurt.”
Jackson had three 3-pointers and scored 20 points as Golden State capped a four-game road trip with a 104-95 win over Orlando on Saturday.
“He is our three-point shooter,” Warriors point guard Baron Davis said. “He is knocking them down right now and that is what we need from him. That keeps him aggressive. We encourage him to take those shots.”
The Warriors have won six of seven since Jackson returned from his ankle injury, and are three wins away from clinching a winning record for the second time in the two seasons Nelson has been back with the team. Before last year’s playoff run, Golden State’s last winning season was 1993-94 during Nelson’s first tenure with the club.
Nelson’s success has earned the coach another year at the helm. The team exercised its option Tuesday to keep him under contract through the 2008-09 season.
“We’re extremely pleased with the job that Don has done this season,” team president Robert Rowell said. “He’s done a terrific job of building on last year’s success and certainly has our team in position to challenge for another exciting postseason journey.”
Another postseason berth, however, can’t be taken for granted in the loaded Western Conference. The Warriors currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot, and are just 2 1/2 games ahead of the Denver Nuggets.
Things are different in the East, where the Raptors (34-29) are one of only five teams with winning records. Toronto still has a firm grasp on a second consecutive playoff berth despite its recent struggles without All-Star forward Chris Bosh.
Including the game in which Bosh left in the first quarter with a knee injury, the Raptors have dropped five of seven games without their leading scorer and rebounder. Despite 28 points from T.J. Ford on Tuesday, they opened their five-game Western Conference road trip with a 117-108 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ford had 29 points, nine assists and six rebounds against the Warriors on Nov. 18, but the Raptors fell 106-100 as Jackson returned from a seven-game suspension to score 17 points in his season debut.