Although the Golden State Warriors are floundering near the bottom of the Western Conference, they’re becoming quite adept at knocking off some of the East’s top contenders.
The Warriors look to add the Orlando Magic to the list Thursday night at Oracle Arena.
Golden State (3-6) seemed to be headed to a sixth straight defeat Tuesday, trailing Miami by 17 points with 1:15 remaining in the third quarter. But the Heat suddenly went cold, missing 15 of 17 shots in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors went on to win 111-106 in overtime.
“I thought there was a point (Tuesday), just like in life, where you can fold the tent or you can begin to believe and fight back,” said first-year coach Mark Jackson, whose only other two victories have come over Chicago and New York. “And we did that. And once you begin to do that, good things happen. Great for my guys, because the bottom line is; you need results, in order to trust the system.”
Nate Robinson seems to be finding a niche in Jackson’s offense. He scored 17 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and overtime and made all 14 of his free throws. In three games since signing with the Warriors last week, Robinson is averaging 14.7 points and providing a spark off the bench.
Robinson wasn’t the only Golden State player, however, to put together a surprising performance against the defending conference champions.
Dorell Wright had a season-high 20 points and made 6 of 11 3-pointers while grabbing a season-best 10 rebounds. He averaged 5.8 points on 32.7 percent shooting and 4.5 boards in his first eight games.
“We have a secret weapon,” said Monta Ellis, who is averaging a team-best 23.9 points.
Wright is unlikely to sneak up on the Magic, however.
In the last meeting between these teams on March 11 at Oracle Arena, the Warriors hit a franchise-record 21 3-pointers on 35 attempts and rallied from a 21-point deficit in a 123-120 overtime victory, snapping a five-game losing streak in the series. Ellis finished with 39 points and made 7 of 9 from long range, while Wright scored 32 and sank 8 of his 11 shots from beyond the arc.
The Magic (7-3) arrive in the Bay Area after defeating Portland 107-104 on Wednesday, handing the Trail Blazers their first loss in seven games at the Rose Garden. Orlando led by as much as 23 points before allowing Portland to close to within three in the final minutes.
“When we are focused we are a good team,” Jameer Nelson said. “We were focused tonight for 38 minutes.”
Jason Richardson scored 15 and is likely looking forward to taking the court against his former team. Richardson, who played for Golden State from 2001-07, is averaging 23.4 points in 12 career games against the Warriors - 3.1 points better than any other team.
Dwight Howard had a relatively quiet night Thursday, finishing with 13 points and 13 rebounds, but could be poised for a big game against the Warriors. The five-time All-Star averaged 17.5 points and 19.0 rebounds in the two games against Golden State last season, and the Warriors are a bit banged-up inside.
The status of Kwame Brown is uncertain after the 6-foot-11 center injured his right shoulder in the fourth quarter Wednesday. Seven-footer Andris Biedrins is expected to return after missing three games with a sprained left ankle, but he’ll likely be a bit rusty and facing Howard probably won’t help.
“It’s nice,” Biedrins said with a laugh when asked about returning just in time to face Howard. “It’s what I wanted.”