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.


Livingston on Kerr: 'He’s our leader ... somebody that we count on'

Livingston on Kerr: 'He’s our leader ... somebody that we count on'

OAKLAND -- Though much has been said about the agonies and challenges facing Steve Kerr, including speculation about when, or if, he’ll return as head coach of the Warriors, little has been put into words that capture the significance of his absence.

This is perhaps because it can be difficult to explain how one man is able to influence a roster of supremely talented athletes, at the wealthiest point of life, with wildly divergent personalities, at different career stages.

Veteran guard Shaun Livingston, a man who knows perspective as well as anyone in the NBA, took a moment Saturday to cut through the palaver and pity to offer a clear and vivid illustration of Kerr’s value as a man and as a coach.

“It’s just his presence, his personality,” Livingston began. “His character, the way he fits in with us. He’s kind of the battery pack, in the sense that he makes everybody go. He keeps us all (in harmony), everybody from staff, training staff, coaching staff to the players.

“He bridges the gaps, in the sense of communication, and he makes it light.”

In short, Kerr’s value to the franchise is far greater than his duties as a coach. He has an easy, breezy charisma insofar as he’s so comfortable submerging his own ego while being remarkably good at making everyone matter.

Moreover, Kerr is decidedly inclusive, explicitly emphatically open to ideas. He’s an outreach specialist whose sensibilities are contagious.

All of which helps create a sprightly and genial workplace, something the Warriors sought when they hired Kerr to replace the swaggering and dogmatic Mark Jackson in May 2014.

“Every day it’s something new, in a sense, and that’s hard to do,” Livingston said. “We’re here for six to nine months for the past couple years, seeing the same faces. So it is kind of like a job. But (Kerr) makes it more like a game and tries to make sure we’re enjoying ourselves out there.”

Kerr wants to live his life and coach basketball around four basic tenets: joy, mindfulness, compassion and competition. Maintaining a balance of the four can be difficult, especially when Kerr is dealing with the searing pain that has him on the sideline for an indefinite period.

But Kerr never strays far. His players seem to see and, more important, feel that.

Draymond Green and Kerr, each volatile in his own way, don’t always see eye-to-eye. Yet Green on several occasions has noted that Kerr “always seems to find the right thing to say, at the right time.”

Veteran David West points out that anyone who spends any time around Kerr can sense his basic humanity. Veteran Andre Iguodala, one of the team’s co-captains, speaks of Kerr’s curiosity and desire to broaden his horizons.

Stephen Curry, the other co-captain, kept the ball from the Warriors’ Game 4 win over Portland last Monday night, punctuating a series sweep, and gave it to Kerr, who missed Games 3 and 4 while coping with this prolonged post-surgery pain.

Lead assistant Mike Brown, the acting head coach in Kerr’s absence, concedes he has benefited from being around Kerr and this team.

“The tone he sets is the best I’ve been around,” said Brown, who has been involved in the NBA since 1992. “This is a special, special situation, and he’s big reason why.”

So it’s not just Livingston who throwing rose petals at the boss. He just happened to convey in a few words the effect Kerr has on the team and within the building.

“He’s our leader,” Livingston said. “He’s somebody that we count on.”

Warriors update health status of Livingston, Barnes

Warriors update health status of Livingston, Barnes

OAKLAND -- One day after every member of the Warriors participated in a full scrimmage, the official health updates were released.

Veteran forward Matt Barnes, out since April 8, is listed as probable for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals that begin Tuesday at Oracle Arena.

Veteran guard Shaun Livingston, out since sustaining a finger/hand injury in Game 1 of the first-round series against Portland on April 16, is listed as questionable -- but with an asterisk.

“Hopefully, we’ll be ready for Tuesday,” Livingston said after a light workout Saturday.

Livingston informed NBCSportsBayArea.com earlier this week that he would have been available, hypothetically, if the Warriors were facing a Game 7.

As for Kevin Durant, who missed five weeks with a knee injury before returning April 8, only to sustain a calf strain in Game 1 against the Trail Blazers, he’s fully available.