Warriors 99, Clippers 89
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—The Golden State Warriors finally have the healthy lineup that coach Don Nelson has believed all along could make a legitimate playoff push.
A lot still must go right, yet the Warriors are doing what they can to remain in the race. Having Baron Davis back sure makes a big difference.
Davis had 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists, and Golden State gained valuable ground on the Los Angeles Clippers in the chase with a 99-89 victory Friday night.
“Baron came in and saved us,” Nelson said.
Reserve Matt Barnes added 16 points and eight rebounds as the Warriors withstood a late Los Angeles rally to pull within 1 1/2 games of the Clippers in the run for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with their first three-game winning streak since November. Golden State hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1994, the league’s longest drought.
“We’re getting closer and closer to the playoffs, and everybody believes we can make the playoffs,” center Andris Biedrins said. “We’ve got to stick together.”
Corey Maggette scored 20 points and Cuttino Mobley added 15 for the Clippers, playing their first game since a loss Monday night to San Antonio. Los Angeles had won the previous two meetings and nine of 11 in the series with Golden State.
Jason Richardson was held to eight points and played only 17 minutes because of foul trouble for the Warriors, who got enough balance from the rest of their roster for a key win. Stephen Jackson had 16 points and six assists, and Al Harrington added 12 points and six boards.
“When Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson play together, it sets the tempo,” Nelson said. “It’s just a contagious thing and it’s happening at the perfect time of the year.”
Richardson was whistled for a technical with 6:53 left in the first quarter for arguing, then picked up his third foul at the 4:06 mark and quickly took a seat on the bench.
With Richardson out the entire second quarter, Barnes picked up the slack. He scored nine points in the period, including a 3-pointer from the baseline 2:23 before halftime that put the Warriors ahead 61-46. He also had four rebounds and three steals as Golden State led 65-48 at the break.
“They just seemed like a team that wanted it more than us in that first half,” said Clippers forward Elton Brand, who had 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists. “We have to play with confidence, play loose. We can’t put any added pressure on ourselves. We’re trying to catch the teams ahead of us with the teams behind us trying to make a charge. It’s a tight race.”
The Warriors are thrilled to be at full strength. They are 3-0 with their regular starting lineup of Davis, Richardson, Jackson, Harrington and Biedrins. Davis has been back during this winning streak after missing 13 games recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
Davis shot 8-for-10, made all nine of his free throws and is averaging 20.6 points, 5.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds since his return.
“It’s great to have Baron back,” Jackson said. “He’s our leader and as he goes, we go—J-Rich, too, our two key guys. Having him back, you see the difference it makes and hopefully we can ride that high horse, keep using their energy and keep finding ways to win games so we can get in these playoffs.”
Golden State lost 103-90 to Los Angeles on Feb. 24, starting a season-high six-game losing streak, but has rebounded with impressive wins over Detroit, Denver and now the Clippers.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, had another subpar night on offense after matching its season low in points (74) against the Spurs on Monday.
Tim Thomas added 14 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals for the Clippers.
Los Angeles lost for the third time in four games following a three-game winning streak and is in a tough stretch with four of five games on the road. The Clippers are home against Detroit on Sunday before playing at San Antonio, Houston and Charlotte in a four-day span next week.
“You have to bring it right now,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said.
Golden State, which shot 52 percent in the first period, hadn’t won three straight since a five-game winning streak from Nov. 9-18. The Warriors have a good chance to build on it, too. They play at Portland on Sunday and have won seven straight against the Trail Blazers, three in a row on the road.
The Warriors have had a better first half this season—scoring 72 points Dec. 10 at Seattle. … Golden State G Mickael Pietrus had the flu and was not at the game and the Warriors used their 35th different starting lineup. … The Warriors are 4-9 overall against the Pacific Division. They improved to 14-4 at home against Western Conference opponents. … Former San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker attended the game with his family. … The Clippers are 8-21 on the road. … Golden State sported its popular retro “The City” yellow uniforms from the 1966-67 season. The team will wear the jerseys in home games throughout March to celebrate Hardwood Classics Month.