The Golden State Warriors are wrapping up their most successful season in 14 years, but that may not be enough to get them into the playoffs.
Looking to draw closer to the eighth and final postseason spot in the Western Conference, Golden State goes for its fifth straight home win over the injury-riddled Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.
Golden State’s playoff hopes took a severe hit on Thursday after squandering a 16-point first-quarter lead in a 114-105 loss at home to Denver. That dropped the Warriors one game behind the eighth-place Nuggets with only three to play, and Denver holds the tiebreaker.
“We’ve got a job to do, we’ve still got games,” said Golden State’s Stephen Jackson, who had 18 points. “We can’t sit and dwell on this game because we lost. Definitely, everybody’s upset, but at the same time we can’t do anything about it. We’ve got to get ready to play the next game.”
After meeting the Clippers, Golden State (47-32) travels to Phoenix and hosts last-place Seattle to close out the regular season. Denver, which plays at Utah on Saturday, hosts playoff-bound Houston and lowly Memphis to finish 2007-08.
“We’ve got a big problem as far as making the playoffs at this particular time,” Warriors coach Don Nelson said. “We’re going to need a lot of luck and probably have to win out.”
Golden State went 42-40 last season and ended a 13-year playoff drought when it finished as the eighth seed. The Warriors went on to complete one of the most stunning upsets in playoff history, beating top-seeded Dallas in six games before losing to Utah in the semifinals.
Monta Ellis led the Warriors with 29 points in the loss to Denver, while Baron Davis recorded his third triple-double of the season with 20 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Andris Biedrins had 19 rebounds to go with 11 points, but Golden State’s reserves were outscored 34-7.
While a victory over the Clippers (23-56) won’t guarantee the Warriors a playoff spot, it will move them closer to their first 50-win season since 1994. Golden State hasn’t lost to the Clippers at Oracle Arena since Jan. 23, 2006, winning four in a row by an average of 12.3 points. That run includes a 122-105 victory on Nov. 16 in which Al Harrington had 27 points and Biedrins added 23 and 18 rebounds.
The Clippers are looking to avoid their fifth losing streak of at least five games. On Thursday, they shot just 36.1 percent (30-of-83) from the field in a 106-78 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Elton Brand, playing his fifth game after missing 74 following surgery for a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon, had a season-high 23 points. Rookie Al Thornton had 22 and 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double.
But leading rebounder Chris Kaman (12.7 per game) missed his fifth straight contest with a sprained right ankle, and leading scorer Corey Maggette (22.2) sat out his second straight with a strained right hamstring.
“We’re undermanned, and this is the NBA,” said Brand, who averages 20.7 points against the Warriors. “Teams are skilled and teams are good, and they can take advantage of that if your bench is depleted. We’ve got some (NBA Development League) guys that don’t know the plays but are working hard.”
Quinton Ross played less than 16 minutes against the Lakers due to soreness in his lower left leg. His status for this game is not known.