Game preview: Warriors-Wizards

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Game preview: Warriors-Wizards

The Warriors, winners of nine of their last 12 games, have fully crept into believable.

Further proof that the Warriors (12-7) may belong in the mix of the NBA’s better half came on Friday night with a road win against the well-built Brooklyn Nets. The belief will become reality if Golden State can continue its trend of improved play through the remaining three quarters of the season.

While the Washington Wizards (2-14) don’t seem like the most significant threat, today’s game in Washington is part of a building momentum. It's these stretches of schedule that create playoff teams.

Here are some other things to watch for during Saturday’s game between the Warriors and Wizards:

Feeding on the weak

The Warriors will need to beat the bad teams. They didn’t do it at home against Orlando (7-12) earlier this week but they did start this current road trip with a win at Detroit (6-15). Wins during the early part of the trip are important, including Saturday’s game in Washington (2-14) and Monday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats (7-11).

Tougher road contests against the Miami Heat (12-5) and the Atlanta Hawks (11-5) sit on the back end of the season-long, seven-game road trip.

Saturday cannot be a letdown. The importance of a win against the Wizards is telling of what type of team the Warriors could be.

The tale of two rookies

Lottery picks are emblematic of hope for most downtrodden franchises. When a franchise feels hopeless, and the top pick appears equally as lost, the outlook becomes frigid.

Wizards rookie Bradley Beal offers a frosty breath in the cold, losing climate of Washington. The third overall pick in last summer’s draft is struggling in the early season, shooting 34.9 percent. The unreasonable pressures placed on young players are only exasperated in losing environments, and with John Wall out, Bradley is in a tough spot. He did have one of his best games Friday night in Atlanta when he scored 18 points, but he’s been inconsistent and a target of frustration for the two-win Wizards.

Then, there’s Harrison Barnes, who is feeling plenty of warmth. The Warriors' top pick, and seventh overall, may begin to find himself in Rookie of the Year conversations as an impact player with the now-relevant Warriors. The athletic forward placed himself within the league's spotlight when he posterized Minnesota Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic in November.

But he’s been more than just a highlight. The North Carolina product finds himself in the right situation with the winning Warriors, starting in all 19 games and finding a role as a well-rounded wing who has contributed to Golden State’s success. He averages 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds when the Warriors win.

Curry keeps it going

It’s not about Stephen Curry being an All-Star by name. Expectations are what they are for the young guard who carries all of Golden State’s expectations on disloyal ankles. But the focus for Curry needs to remain playing within the Warriors' current winning system.

This includes maintaining his play as the team’s long-wished-for point guard. Curry scored 28 points on Friday night and now has six consecutive games with 20 or more points. In the team’s last six games, the 24-year-old is averaging 22.5 points and 8.8 assists per game.

 It's Curry's current 6.5 assists per game, the highest average of his career, that is benefiting the Warriors most. His numbers are consistant, in both wins and losses, and it will be important for the team’s success that Curry continues to be a constant. If he can lead the team in taking care of the ball and limiting turnovers Saturday, the team should be successful against Washington.

There’s the guy

The real David Lee has emerged. The star forward the Warriors have been waiting for has arrived, and on Friday night he recorded his first 30-point, 15-rebound game with the franchise.

Lee is averaging a double-double, scoring 18.2 points and collecting 10.9 rebounds per game. Keep the bottle of Korbel on ice for after the game just in case; Lee's fourth rebound tonight will be the No. 5,000 in his career.


Warriors All-Stars combine for 56 points, West wins

Warriors All-Stars combine for 56 points, West wins

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis had an All-Star Game for the record books.

And on a night when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant provided a glimpse of the past, Giannis Antetokounmpo showed he's clearly part of the future and a midcourt lob attempt from James Harden even went in, Davis absolutely stole the show.

He scored 52 points, 10 more than Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star record that had stood for 55 years, and the Western Conference beat the Eastern Conference 192-182 on Sunday night — the highest-scoring game in league history.

Davis made 26 shots and took 39, both of those also All-Star records. He even outdid Westbrook, who had 41 points in just 20 minutes — which ordinarily would have been enough to merit him what would have been a third straight MVP award.

Not this time. It was Davis hoisting the trophy, to the delight of his New Orleans fans.

"It was a lot of fun," Davis said. "My teammates did a great job of looking for me."

Durant had a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Stephen Curry added 21 points for the West — where a subplot emerged as DeMarcus Cousins played only two minutes, prompting some speculation that a trade sending him out of Sacramento might be looming.

Antetokounmpo had 30 points for the East, with 12 dunks in his night. LeBron James scored 23 points to become the first All-Star to eclipse 300 in a career, Kyrie Irving had 22 points and 14 assists, and Isaiah Thomas scored 20 for the East.

Davis became the story that overshadowed The Story coming into this game, that being the Durant-Westbrook whatever.

And if there is any animus remaining between Durant and Westbrook, it was hidden. They passed each other the ball and slapped hands in the pregame layup line, and not long after Westbrook checked into the game the former Oklahoma City teammates provided one of the game's top highlights — a give-and-go, capped by Durant lobbing the ball to set Westbrook up for a dunk.

"OH MY GOD! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?" Curry shouted on the West bench, which moments later broke into celebration. Players jumped and threw hands skyward, Curry tossing a cupful of water onto a smiling Durant amid it all.

Draymond Green called the play "cute," and Westbrook and Durant seemed happy with it as well.

"It was a nice give-and-go, man," Westbrook said. "Good give-and-go. Made a good pass. I barely got over the rim, but it was a nice give-and-go."

Added Durant: "It was a great basketball play. He was open so I threw him the lob. He can jump really high so yeah, good play."

Some fans were shouting "De-Fense!" in the fourth quarter. West center DeAndre Jordan heard them, rising from his seat on the West bench to yell "No, no, no" back in their direction.

If those fans were serious, they were disappointed.

Westbrook scored 12 points — all on 3s — in a 63-second span late in the third quarter, coming off the bench and firing over and over and over again. And then he opened the fourth quarter with another 3, giving him 34 points in just under 14 minutes played to that point.

It looked like he was a cinch for MVP honors, until Davis scored 20 points in the fourth.

TIP-INS

East: Irving also led the East in rebounds with seven. ... Kyle Lowry scored 19 points and DeMar DeRozan added 16. ... No East player logged more than 24 minutes.

West: Curry took cover in the third quarter, comically hitting the deck face-first as Antetokounmpo went in for yet another dunk. So later in the quarter, Antetokounmpo went over Curry for a rebound slam — one that left Curry staring at the scoreboard for a replay. ... Kawhi Leonard had a steal and dunk in the opening minute, a defensive display that left West coach Steve Kerr in hysterics.

EMBIID CLOSE

Joel Embiid wanted to be in the All-Star Game, and he was close — literally and figuratively.

The Philadelphia star sat on the edge of the baseline next to the West bench, meaning he got to greet players throughout the night and share a few words with some at halftime.

CELEB WATCH

A huge roar greeted Jon Batiste, who performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" pregame, when he started the song.

It wasn't for him.

That happened to be the moment when John Legend — the halftime performer — and Chrissy Teigen were shown at their sideline seats on the video screens around the arena. And a louder cheer came not long afterward when Beyonce and Jay Z got on-screen.

Among the other celebs in the seats: Guy Fieri, Dave Chappelle, Julius Erving, Alonzo Mourning, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson and The Roots.

UP NEXT

The next All-Star Game is Feb. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles, which will host for a record sixth time.

Thompson eliminated in first round of All-Star 3-point contest

Thompson eliminated in first round of All-Star 3-point contest

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson will not repeat as the NBA All-Star Game's 3-point shootout champion. 

In need of 19 points, Thompson managed only 18 -- that allowed Kemba Walker to advance into the semifinals. 

Houston's Eric Gordon had the high score of the first round. He went on to win the championship -- besting Kyrie Irving.

Thompson has made 182 3-pointers this season which ranks him fifth in the league.