OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA (TICKER) —Although the Golden State Warriors are four games under .500, the playoffs are a hot topic in their locker room.
Golden State (26-30) has not made the playoffs since 1993-94 but pulled within four games of Phoenix for the final Western Conference postseason spot. It was the Warriors’ second win in a row following Wednesday’s lopsided loss at Portland.
“We’re trying to be within the top eight,” Arenas said. “That’s what we’re going for.”
“This is the first time this deep in the season that you’ve seen a smile,” Warriors forward Antawn Jamison added. “Usually the games are not meaningful and you’re just going out there playing for pride. To be at this point in the season and have every game mean something, to really prove a point and to have guys playing as well as they’ve been playing, you really get to enjoy it a lot more.”
Golden State’s 26th win, which is five more than it had in 2001-02, was one of its better defensive efforts. It was the first time in nine games the Warriors allowed fewer than 100 points and gave them a sixth win in seven home contests.
The game was tight until the final five minutes of the first half. Jason Terry’s mid-range jumper cut Atlanta’s deficit to 43-42 with 5:13 remaining, but the Hawks did not score again before halftime as the Warriors used a 14-0 run to pull away.
Troy Murphy scored seven of his 17 points during the spurt and Richardson capped it with the first of his three thunderous dunks with 53.6 seconds remaining.
“It was kind of like the way our first game went,” Hawks coach Terry Stotts said, referring to a 116-113 loss to Golden State on February 11. “The game is going along all right and then, they’re an explosive young team and they were creating a few turnovers and getting out in transition and their activity got us out of rhythm.”
The start of the second half was more of the same for Golden State. The Warriors opened a 72-55 lead with 8:46 remaining as Richardson dunked on consecutive possessions.
Richardson, the two-time NBA Slam Dunk champion, slammed in the face of Theo Ratliff, then did a reverse dunk on the fast break.
But Atlanta’s leading scorers struggled from the field. Less than a week after a season-low 32 percent effort in Dallas, the Hawks shot 33 percent (31-of-94) and lost for the sixth time in eight games.
Atlanta had a 25-24 lead after shooting 44 percent in the first quarter. But it shot just 25 percent (20-of-79) the rest of the way.
“I thought the second quarter was the most active we’ve been all year defensively,” Golden State coach Eric Musselman said. “I thought our guys stepped up defensively and challenged shots. Anytime you can hold a team to under 35 percent from the field, I think you’re doing a pretty good job.”
“They beat us in all phases of the game and we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Terry said. “Anytime you don’t shoot the ball and you don’t get loose balls and offensive rebounds, it’s going to be a long night.”
Jamison finished with 17 points, Murphy grabbed 19 rebounds, helping the Warriors to a 60-49 rebounding advantage, and Arenas had six of his team’s 21 assists. Golden State improved to 5-3 since the All-Star break.