Fast Forward: Battle of I-80 tips off Warriors' playoff push

Fast Forward: Battle of I-80 tips off Warriors' playoff push
February 19, 2014, 1:15 pm
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The Warriors have not won two games in Sacramento since the 2004-05 season. (USATSI)

KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Not letting Thomas, who can be streaky, get rolling.

2. Containing Cousins, assuming he plays, as he may be the most gifted big man in the league.

3. A revived and refreshed Klay Thompson can be a difference-maker.

Programming note: Warriors-Kings coverage tips off with Warriors Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SACRAMENTO -- The Warriors say they've learned from the past, realize how slim is their margin for error and that each of the final 29 games this season must be approached with a playoff-like mentality.

Beginning Wednesday against the Northern California rival Sacramento Kings.

"I look at it as 29 games left in my career," veteran center Jermaine O'Neal said.

"Right now, we’ve got to play playoff basketball," forward Draymond Green said. "Especially with the way the Western Conference is. It's a tough conference. It's not going to be easy, but we feel we're capable of doing that."

That was the gist of a team meeting Monday night. There can be no more regrettable losses, no more we should’ve or could've. They've experienced too much, which is why they are a few games behind the pace they'd like to have set.

"It has to be some type of sacrifice," O'Neal said. "We can't give lip service. Whatever we've got, we’ve got to give -- whatever you've got, if it's one leg or one arm. We're not built to not have everybody and (still be able to) win."

The Warriors don't have LeBron James or a Kevin Durant, don't have a single MVP-caliber individual who changes games on a nightly basis. They don't have multiple All-Stars, like so many certified contenders.

At this stage of their development, a collective effort is the only path to success. That goes double in the deep and powerful Western Conference, where 50 wins won't carry the clout it once did.

The Warriors (31-22) began Wednesday holding the No. 7 seed and on pace for about 48 wins. That's a precarious position.

[RELATED: NBA standings]

"We're in the Western Conference, with a bunch of very good teams, it's about playing you're best basketball when it matters most," coach Mark Jackson said.

"We've learned that on any given night, anybody can beat you," Green said. "It's about making sure we're really focusing, playing with playoff intensity, like every game counts, because in the West it definitely does."

Beginning tonight, with a Kings team that despite losing 12 of its last 16 games usually brings its best against the Warriors.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Stephen Curry vs. Isaiah Thomas. Curry is ice, Thomas fire. Neither point guard can typically defend the other, as the 6-foot-3 Curry is too long and the 5-9 Thomas too quick. But each is the key to his team. Both live for big moments and it appears this rivalry within a rivalry will only get hotter.

Andre Iguodala vs. Rudy Gay. Gay is as athletic as any pure wing in the league, right up there with Paul George. He's slightly bigger than Iguodala, but Andre has a way of getting tight on such opponents. Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes -- who has been victimized by Gay in the past -- will also get some chances.

INJURY UPDATE: C Andrew Bogut (left shoulder inflammation), C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) and G Nemanja Nedovic (strained left hamstring, right foot inflammation) are out indefinitely.

[RELATED: Warriors' Bogut to miss Kings game]

For the Kings: G Isaiah Thomas (wrist) is expected to play. C Cousins (strained hip flexor) is questionable.

LAST 10: Warriors 5-5, Kings 3-7.

SERIES HISTORY: The Warriors won the first two meetings this season, one at each venue, but have not won two games in Sacramento since 2004-05. Since being swept by the Kings for three consecutive seasons (2000-03), the Warriors have won or tied the season series all but once, dropping three of four last season.

 

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