Warriors clinch playoff spot with blowout win

Dave Del Grande, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- By rewriting recent history, the Golden State Warriors have earned the right to try to repeat it.
The Warriors, who were last seen in the NBA playoffs upsetting the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in 2007, clinched their first postseason berth since then Tuesday night. Golden State used a 19-4 third-quarter flurry and 30 points from Klay Thompson as the foundations of a 105-89 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Warriors' 45th win, coupled with the Utah Jazz's 38th loss earlier in the night, assured Golden State will finish among the top eight teams in the Western Conference standings when the regular season ends next week.
"We celebrated, and rightfully so," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of a private moment in the locker room immediately following the win. "People questioned us, and they should have. People doubted us, and they should have. They underestimated the heart, the desire, the work ethic, the determination and the willingness to put in the time."
The Warriors (45-33) hold a one-game advantage over the Houston Rockets (44-34) for the sixth spot on the Western playoff ladder. They will face either the West's first, second or third seed in the first round, starting on the road as they did six years ago.
Golden State's first playoff opponent, if the postseason began today, would be the Denver Nuggets (53-24).
After many hugs and even a few tears, Jackson gave his team a clear postgame message.
"I told them don't you dare go to the baggage claim, because this is just a layover and not our final destination," he said. "Celebrate that we got here, but this is not the final destination."
The postseason experience will be the first for seven of the 13 Warriors in uniform Tuesday, including David Lee, an eight-year veteran, and Stephen Curry, who has spent all four of his NBA seasons with Golden State.
"I had seasons in New York where the talk became how we could get LeBron James. And the last couple of years here haven't been much fun," Lee said. "This is the first time I've had the chance to contribute to a team, to be a major guy, and that we've had the firepower to have a chance to make the playoffs.
"Playoffs are a combination of two things: Finding a way to stay above water on the road and taking care of your home. We did that. We've done an unbelievable job at home this year."
The Warriors' last trip to the playoffs came at the end of the 2006-07 season, when they snuck in with a 42-40 record and then stunned the Mavericks before falling to the Jazz in the conference semifinals.
Before that, it was Chris Webber's rookie season in 1994.
"We were not picked very high," Curry said. "We proved a lot of people wrong."
After failing to clinch their spot Sunday in a home loss to Utah, the Warriors made the most of their second opportunity despite trailing most of the first half against the Timberwolves.
The turnaround en route to Golden State's sixth consecutive win over Minnesota began with a technical foul on Timberwolves guard Luke Ridnour for scuffling with the Thompson, whose 25-point first half almost singlehandedly kept Golden State in the game.
After Thompson's sixth 3-pointer of the night gave the Warriors a 63-60 lead with 7:26 left in the third quarter, the rivals bumped a couple of times on the Timberwolves' next possession. Ridnour took the contact a step further on the transition back to the Golden State hoop, first fouling Thompson away from the ball and then shoving him to draw the technical.
Curry converted the "T" into a free throw and a four-point lead, and Harrison Barnes brought down the house with a dunk on an alley-oop pass from Lee on the subsequent possession.
Curry and Barnes added 3s of their own shortly thereafter. When Curry hit a 10-foot floater in the lane with 3:40 left in the quarter, the Warriors had a 19-4 run and a 78-64 cushion that was not seriously threatened the rest of the way.
"We just got frantic," said Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman, whose team had won three of its previous four games. "We didn't control our emotions well enough."
Thompson's 30 points came on 10-for-19 shooting, 6-for-10 from 3-point range. Curry (24 points, 10 assists), Lee (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Barnes (15 points, 10 rebounds) all complemented Thompson with double-doubles. Even Andrew Bogut had a role in the win, outplaying reigning Western Conference Player of the Week Nikola Pekovic, outrebounding him 10-7 and harassing him into 2-for-8 shooting.
Reserve forward Chase Budinger led the Timberwolves (29-48) with 17 points. Fellow backups J.J. Barea (13) and Dante Cunningham (11) also scored in double figures for Minnesota, as did starting forward Andrei Kirilenko, who had 15.
"We just didn't play well at all. It's as simple as that," said Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio, who missed all 10 of his shots and finished with five points. "(The Warriors) are having a good season. They played well tonight."
NOTES: The Warriors swept the season series from the Timberwolves despite trailing by double figures in three of the four games. Their biggest deficit Tuesday was six. ... Among the Warriors, Richard Jefferson (94 games) has by far the most playoff experience, followed by Carl Landry (25). ... The only returning Warrior from the 2007 playoff team is Andris Biedrins. ... Thompson's third 3-pointer pushed him over 200 for the season. He and Curry are the first teammates to both make at least 200 3s in the same season since the Celtics' Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker did it 11 years ago. ... There's been more to celebrate in an around the Warriors recently than merely their run to the playoffs. Coach Mark Jackson's former coach, Rick Pitino, won the NCAA championship; Bernard King, a two-year Warrior, was named to the 2013 class of the Basketball Hall of Fame; and Adelman, who coached the Warriors for two seasons, earned his 1,000th NBA coaching win for the Timberwolves. ... Pekovic earned NBA Western Conference Player of the Week honors for last week after averaging 25.0 points and 8.5 rebounds as Minnesota won three of four.

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