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.


Does Draymond still care about DPOY after another ring? 'At this point...'

Does Draymond still care about DPOY after another ring? 'At this point...'

OAKLAND -- Even though Draymond Green still would like to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, winning a championship with the Warriors has quenched much of thirst for the honor.

“I don’t really care that much anymore,” Green said after participating in the JaVale McGee Celebrity softball game Saturday at the Oakland Coliseum benefitting the Jug Life Foundation, promoting a healthy lifestyle around water consumption.

“I cared before,” Green added. “But we won the NBA championship now. I don’t care about what happened in the regular season any more at this point. I think I would have cared if I found out in Round 1 or Round 2 (of the playoffs).

“But at this point . . . I don’t even care any more.”

This is in marked contrast to what Green expressed early in the regular season, when he acknowledged the DPOY award is the only individual award he actively cared to win.

As recently as two months ago, in discussing his defensive performance in a season during which he made numerous memorable plays, including some game-saving defensive stands, Green let his words speak on his behalf.

“It is the best defensive season I’ve had, because I’ve continued to grow,” he said at the end of the regular season. “When I look at the last couple years, I think each year I got better defensively. And I think this year I’ve gotten better. So I do think it’s my best season, defensively -- but just not numbers-wise. The numbers are up a little bit more. But I actually feel better about what I’ve done on the defensive end than I have in any other year.”

Winning a championship apparently has an impact on the significance of individual awards.

A finalist for the award for which he finished second in each of the past two seasons, Green said Saturday that his plan is to leave for New York on Sunday and be in attendance when the awards are presented Monday night.

The other finalists for the award are Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, who won it the last two seasons.

All three players will be among those at Basketball City at Pier 36 in New York for the inaugural telecast of the NBA Awards on TNT.

Durant fires back at salty Thunder fans with custom cupcake hat

Durant fires back at salty Thunder fans with custom cupcake hat

Kevin Durant didn't forget about the taunts.

In February, when Durant returned to Oklahoma City for the first time as a member of the Warriors, Thunder fans heckled him with t-shirts featuring cupcakes, a reference to Durant being soft for joining the 73-win Warriors.

On Saturday, the cupcake graphic made a return with one slight change.

Durant, playing in JaVale McGee's JugLife Celebrity Softball game at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday, showed up to the stadium wearing a cupcake hat. But instead of a cheery on top, a championship ring was superimposed on top of the cupcake.

So Durant, an NBA champion, got the last laugh.