After first 62 games, Warriors peaking at right time

YSTL: Most favorable playoff matchup for Warriors?

After first 62 games, Warriors peaking at right time
March 6, 2014, 2:45 pm
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Stephen Curry is on the verge of accomplishing one of his desires: to become an updated version of prime Steve Nash.
Monte Poole

Stephen Curry is averaging 23.8 points per game and 41.4 percent from three-point range this season. (USATSI)

After a strong first month, Klay Thompson fell off in December and January, but has improved his game in recent weeks. (USATSI)

Programming note: Warriors-Hawks coverage tips off Friday at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territory restrictions apply)

Having won seven of nine since the All-Star break and facing a schedule ripe for exploitation, the Warriors approach the final quarter of the regular season in a dead sprint.

With 20 games remaining, they're 38-24 through the first 62. They've been by turns magnificent and maddening. They've had surprising wins and shocking losses. They've survived bumps, bruises and surgeries and now appear to be peaking.

[RELATED: Rewind: Warriors thrash Celtics, look like team on mission]

Their timing, it must be said, could not be better.

The Warriors currently hold the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. That's where they finished last season. It's different now, though, because the conference is even more competitive. The key is to avoid the seventh and eighth seeds, and the Warriors are positioned to do that.

Here's one man's view of where the Warriors stand through the First 62.

MVP: Stephen Curry.

He is their most indispensable player by far, a certified All-Star who has blossomed into a top-three point guard – when he takes care of the basketball.

His defense can be a liability, and he's still not drawing fouls as he should – officials don't exactly give him a break – but Curry is the Warriors' go-to guy, as well as their go-through guy. He is on the verge of accomplishing one of his desires: to become an updated version of prime Steve Nash.

[RELATED: Instant Replay: Warriors dismantle Celtics, win 108-88]

The Warriors turn to the fifth-year veteran to make crucial shots, create opportunities for others, inspire his teammates and, well, just about everything other than ensure the availability of Jermaine O'Neal's passport.

More often than not, Curry delivers.

WELCOME DEVELOPMENT: A reasonably good bench.

Through the first 50 or so games, the Warriors had three very visible problems, the most troubling being their bench. That has been addressed and is turning into one of their strengths.

Center Jermaine O'Neal, who missed two months with wrist surgery, returned a month ago and is healthy and effective. Forward Draymond Green is a defensive terror and perhaps their most valuable reserve. Forward Harrison Barnes has shaken off his shooting struggles, regained his confidence and his predator's eye.

But the real solidification of the bench came on Feb. 20, when general manager Bob Myers acquired Steve Blake from the Lakers in exchange for Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks – two guards who were not effective enough to play meaningful minutes.

Blake immediately became the backup point guard and a steadying influence, allowing Jordan Crawford, a natural scorer masquerading at the point, to move to shooting guard.

It's working. The league's lowest-scoring bench suddenly is trustworthy and on the rise. While it's apparent Myers whiffed on his secondary offseason pickups, power forward Marreese Speights and combo guard Toney Douglas – the former fell out of the rotation, the latter was dealt away – the GM redeemed himself with Blake.

BALLING: Thompson.

Klay told me shortly before the season opener that he planned to add more dimension to his game. Become more than a jump shooter. Show people he can take it to the rack. And dunk. On people, if need be.

And, well, he's doing that. After a strong first month, Thompson fell off in December and declined even more in January. He settled into a rut, lounging beyond the arc and waiting for a pass so he could fire away. He missed dozens of open jumpers.

The past two weeks it's a different Klay, and not just the facial hair. Someone, and I'm guessing it was his very vocal father, Mychal, got into Klay's ear and reminded him of what it takes to be great.

Thompson is driving the rack, with a purpose. He's dunking. His 3-point shot is coming back. And he outright drained that buzzer-beater in Indy, one of the three biggest shots of the season.

FALLING: Andre Iguodala.

We see it in spurts, a spectacular drive to the bucket or a sly steal that triggers the fast break. There are times when Iguodala looks irreplaceable.

What on earth has happened to Andre's shot?

Though Iguodala is not considered a great shooter, he was marvelous in the early going. Through the first 13 games, before straining his hamstring, he shot 54.5 percent, 47.9 percent from 3-point distance. Even in the first 14 games after he returned to the lineup, he shot 52.4 percent overall, 46.1 from beyond the arc. He was a difference-maker.

But Iguodala's recent numbers have been staggeringly bad. Over the past 26 games, he's shooting 38.9 percent, 15 percent from beyond the arc.

We know he's better than that, because we've seen the proof.

ET CETERA: The Andrew Bogut/David Lee combo of big men went through the terrific phase but has flattened a bit of late. Both are nursing wounds. As they get healthier, they should return to form.

Coach Mark Jackson was under fire (out of proportion to reality) and didn't always handle it well. He railed against it, which goes back to his competitive nature. He wanted everyone – from casual fans to those in the team's executive suites – to understand that success in the NBA does not occur overnight or even in a year.

If this were the Lakers, all the fussing and agitation would be understood. The Lakers have missed the playoffs four times since moving to California in 1960. They have an established culture of winning.

The Warriors have been the opposite, making the playoffs only twice since 1994 – and one of those appearances was last season.

THE FINAL 20: It's a pretty simple formula for the Warriors. They have to reassert themselves at Oracle Arena. Do that, while winning three or four of their seven road games, and they're looking at 50 or more wins.

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