With the All-Star break in the rearview mirror, its timefor the second half of the season to begin. The Warriors begin Part II withfive consecutive road games, starting Tuesday night in Indiana.Golden State is 13-17, but coach Mark Jackson continues tomaintain the Warriors are a playoff team. If they hope to get to thepostseason, the Warriors are going to have to start piling up thewins.While theyre only three games out of the eighth and finalplayoff spot in the Western Conference, they would have to leapfrog four teamsif they hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.Here are five keys to the second half of theseason:
1. Bench keeps rolling: Behind BrandonRush and Ekpe Udoh, the Warriors bench has been the teams biggest bright spot.Rush and Udoh have anchored the teams second unit, while Nate Robinson,Dominic McGuire and Klay Thompson have chipped in on a less consistentbasis.Still, the Warriors second unit has an identity andchemistry, and the team as a whole needs for all of it to continue.2. Improvement from Jackson: First-yearcoach Mark Jackson has been pretty solid in Year 1, but for the teams end-gameplay and his tendency to over-praise his players.For the Warriors to make a second-half run, hell have toget the team to play even better defense and then hell have to figure out away to carve out more wins in close games.3. Curry and Lee in crunch-time: MontaEllis game-winning jumper over Grant Hill last Wednesday to beat Phoenix wasone of only two games the Warriors have won this season decided by three orfewer points.Overall, the Warriors are 2-6 in those kinds of games. Oneway for the Warriors to win more close games is for Stephen Curry and David Lee, two of theircore players, to begin to deliver more down the stretch of games.Too often the Warriors resort to Ellis or Robinson doingthings on their own late and the results havent been good enough.4. Tighten things across board: There hasbeen no one thing that has been the Warriors bugaboo this season. One gamesits rebounding, another its turnovers, the game after that its failing toexecute offensively down the stretch.In short, the Warriors have to show improvement in theiroverall game and do a better job of taking care of the little things, asJackson calls them.5. Win on the road: Unless the Warriorscan find a way to better their 4-8 mark on the road this season, theyre notgoing anywhere. No team in the Western Conference has a bigger discrepancybetween home games (18) and road games (12) than the Warriors, which will makethe second half of the season even more challenging.The Sacramento Kings, for example, have played 21 road gamesand just 12 home games. The bottom line is the Warriors have to do somethingthey havent done for years: Win consistently away from Oracle.