Fast Forward: With win, Warriors are playoff bound

Fast Forward: With win, Warriors are playoff bound
April 10, 2014, 1:30 pm
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Last year was definitely a big deal, to stop the playoff drought. But this year is more about trying to capitalize on the success we've had . . . and just realize that this is an expectation we should have every single year.
Stephen Curry

KEYS TO THE GAME:

1) Stay focused. It's not yet the time for minds to drift ahead to the playoffs.
2) Run. Denver, already with a makeshift roster, is playing back-to-back games.
3) Bombs away. Take advantage of a Nuggets team that does not lock down the 3-point arc.

Klay Thompson registered 21 points (9-19 FG) in the Warriors' loss to the Nuggets back on Jan. 15 (USATI)

Programming note: Nuggets-Warriors coverage tips off tonight at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area Plus (Territory restrictions apply) Channel locations

OAKLAND – The Warriors have reached that stage of the season where the opponents matter only in context because the stakes matter so much more.

The true significance of Thursday night's game against the Nuggets is that a victory would officially clinch a postseason berth for the Warriors.

Point guard Stephen Curry said such an achievement would be a "checked box on the list of things we're trying to accomplish" this season.

Should the Warriors (48-29) clinch on Thursday it would be the first time since 1992 that they've appeared in the playoffs in consecutive seasons. They enter the game holding the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.

"Last year was definitely a big deal, to stop the playoff drought," Curry said after the morning shootaround. "But this year is more about trying to capitalize on the success we've had . . . and just realize that this is an expectation we should have every single year."

One of the reasons the Warriors had not already clinched a spot is the number of losses, particularly home losses to inferior teams.

The Nuggets (34-44), who enter the game staring at a short roster and trip to the lottery, was the first of those six teams, hanging a 123-116 loss on the Warriors last Jan. 15 at Oracle.

The Nuggets, shooting 66.7 percent from the field, scored 35 points in the first quarter. Curry remembers it well.

"If we allow them those four or five minutes of easy baskets and not putting up any effort on the defensive end," he said, "they can definitely make you pay. We have to avoid those lulls like we (had) the last time we played them at home."

The Warriors have shown no sign of lulls in their last two home games, posting emphatic wins over Sacramento and Utah. They have unified amid turmoil – losing two assistant coaches over the past three weeks – and appear to have raised their intensity.

[POOLE: Lacob's silence amid coaching staff chaos speaks volumes]

"It's just a collective focus to block out distractions that us as players can't control," Curry said.

"It's a team thing that stays in house," said center Andrew Bogut, who worked closely with Brian Scalabrine, one of the dismissed assistants. "We're still winning games."

The Warriors are 10-3 at home since the All-Star break.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Curry vs. Aaron Brooks: Curry has played well of late, and so has Brooks, a veteran point guard filling in for Ty Lawson. Brooks can be streaky, so it's important to contain him early.

Klay Thompson vs. Randy Foye: Thompson continues to improve, rounding out his game at both ends. Foye is solid but has spectacular moments. It's a matchup Thompson should win as long as he's as fully engaged as he has been of late.

Draymond Green vs. Kenneth Faried: Two high-energy forwards, neither one known for scoring, will try to impose their will on each other. Faried is the better athlete, but Green is more versatile.

[RELATED: Draymond Green brings solutions to Warriors]

INJURY REPORT: For the Warriors, SF Andre Iguodala (right knee tendinitis) is probable. PF David Lee (strained right hamstring) and C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery rehab) are out indefinitely.

For the Nuggets, SF Wilson Chandler (left groin strain), SF Danilo Gallinari (left knee surgery), PF J.J. Hickson (right knee surgery), PG Ty Lawson (left ankle sprain), C JaVale McGee (left tibia stress fracture), and PG Nate Robinson (left knee sprain) are out.

LAST 10: Warriors 7-3, Nuggets 3-7.

SERIES HISTORY: The teams split two games earlier this season, each winning on the other's home court. Though the No. 6 seed Warriors defeated the No. 3 seed Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs last spring, Denver has won 13 of the last 18 regular-season meetings.

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