Lakers come to town, Warriors look to exact revenge

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Lakers come to town, Warriors look to exact revenge

UPDATE (Dec. 22, 3:10 p.m.) -- Steve Nash will make his return to the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at Oracle Arena against the Warriors, according to USA Today.

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It’s the Lakers -- never mind the record, never mind the drama.

When the Los Angeles Lakers visit the Bay Area, the current shape of the team is irrelevant.

“They’re always a test,” Warriors forward David Lee said. “I don’t care if they’re 0-100, they’ve got the personnel to be very, very tough and we need to come out and give our best effort.”

The Lakers (12-14) enter the contest struggling this season, despite having won three straight, and sit 5.5 games back of the Warriors (18-9).

That doesn’t mean much headed into tonight’s game though, as the Lakers historically have the Warriors’ number and have swept the season series in three of the last four years.

The Warriors mantra -- “that’s not our history” -- doesn’t exactly apply. This season, on Nov. 9, Los Angeles delivered Golden State’s worst loss, 101-77 at the Staples Center.

Still, the way the Warriors have played of late, having won eight of their last 11 at home, tonight’s game should be telling of Golden State’s evolution.

“We expect to go out and win tomorrow night whether we are favored, or whether they have more talent, we just expect to go out there and win,” Lee said after Friday night’s win against the Bobcats. “And it’s not an arrogance, it’s just a confidence within our team because we trust one another.”

An All-Star pitch

The campaigning has begun already.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson is dropping more and more references of support for his two stars, Lee and Stephen Curry, to be included as All-Stars this season.

Jackson made the point in his postgame news conference Friday to say he’s not about chasing individual recognition, but he then went on to say that Curry and Lee deserve to be All-Stars for changing the culture of his basketball team.

“I would be doing them a disservice by not leading the parade acknowledging that they are very deserving of it,” Jackson said. “If it doesn’t happen, we are going to keep it moving and continue to win ball games, but while this mic is in front of me I’m going to let people know how special these guys have been.”

Lee, who recorded his third career triple-double against the Bobcats, is averaging 20 and 11.3 rebounds through 27 games this season.

“The only thing I worry about going into every game is getting rebounds because that’s one of the things that team needs me to do and for us to be successful,” Lee said after the win on Friday night. “I don’t worry one bit about scoring or post touches. They can not throw me the ball for five quarters; it doesn’t matter.

“I try to just go up and get every rebound on both ends of the floor and that gets me into the aggression of the game and the rest just takes care of itself.”

Curry has now hit 15 three-pointers in the team’s past two games -- the first Warriors player to ever hit at least seven in back-to-back games -- and is averaging 20.2 points, 6.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.

Parents weekend

A night after Curry hit eight three-pointers in front of his pops, Dell Curry, there will be another Warriors dad coming to Oracle. Klay Thompson’s father, Mychal Thompson, a former Laker and current team broadcaster, will be in attendance.

The Warriors second-year shooting guard looks forward to seeing his dad, facing off against the Lakers and the challenge of a matchup with Kobe Bryant.

“It’s fun, it’s real fun for me,” Thompson said about playing against the Lakers. “I look forward to those games because you can measure yourself against the best in the league. Those are the games to look forward to, especially since my Dad is calling it.”

For more Warriors news and analysis, follow @jimmypspencer on Twitter

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

When Kevin Durant returns, which could happen as soon as next week, the Warriors will be an appreciably better team than they were when he left.

Better because in Durant’s absence, veteran wing Andre Iguodala found the best of his game and fully regained his shooting confidence.

Better because David West, who spent the first two quarters of the season acclimating to his new teammates and the third on the injury list, has settled in and turned up his fire and production to a level that pleads for more playing time.

Better because Stephen Curry is dancing and Klay Thompson is cooking and Draymond Green is destroying opposing offenses.

Better because everybody on this team can sense the postseason and is making the mental adjustment, while knowing they’ll get an emotional bounce from Durant’s presence on the floor.

“Obviously, you hate to see KD go down; he’s going to be back soon,” Curry told reporters after a 110-98 win over the Spurs in San Antonio. “But we never really lost confidence in ourselves. There was no panic. We’ve just battled.”

Consider that the Warriors, who own the best record in the NBA, are coming off two nights during which they also proved to be the best team. Going into Houston and San Antonio on successive nights, they extended their seven-game win streak to nine, the longest active streak at a time when all playoff teams wish to peak.

By wiping out a 22-point deficit to a Spurs team that simply doesn’t allow that but did anyway even with Green completely off his offensive game.

And this was done with Durant observing and cheering from the bench in street clothes while also learning more about his teammates and appreciating what they’ve been able to accomplish.

Most notably, as a team, what they’ve done on defense. After recovering from the body blow that was losing Durant, losing five of seven in the process, the Warriors have pulled off a dazzling stretch during which they’ve taken apart all comers.

Prior to holding the Spurs to 41 percent from the field, the Warriors limited the explosive Rockets to 38.8 percent, the Grizzlies to 44.7 (34.8 in the decisive second half), the Kings to 48.2, the Mavericks to 35.9, the Thunder to 42.5, the Bucks to 40.4, the Magic to 37.2 and the 76ers to 43.8.

“We play a finesse style . . . but when we’re at our best, you talk about our defense,” Curry said. “It’s about having each other’s back, trying to do little things, physically, to keep teams out of the paint and off the glass.”

What has happened is most everybody in the playing rotation has grown in the absence of Durant. And while some had to if the Warriors were to withstand his loss, that they managed to do so is significant. The evidence is visible and palpable, never more than late Wednesday night.

“We have what it takes to win all sorts of ways,” Curry said. “Whether you’re down 15 and can’t figure out what’s going on in the first quarter, or you put together a beautiful performance for 48 minutes, it doesn’t matter. Night in and night out, you’ve just got to be ready to play."

At no point this season have the Warriors had reason to feel as good as they do returning home to Oracle Arena, where they will play six of their final seven games. Winning five more games gives them the No. 1 overall seed, regardless of what the Spurs do.

They’re on top of their game and they’re a few games away from adding the man who was their best player through the first 60 games.

By all appearances and insinuations, Durant will be back for the final two or three games of the regular season. That beats any trade-deadline deal eight days a week.

Instant Replay: Warriors erase early woes for big win vs Spurs

Instant Replay: Warriors erase early woes for big win vs Spurs

BOX SCORE

The Warriors won their ninth consecutive game, and this one was profoundly more significant than the previous eight.

With a 110-98 win over the Spurs at AT&T Center in San Antonio Wednesday night, the Warriors took a giant step closer to achieving their goal of the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs.

They now lead the Spurs by 3.5 games in the Western Conference. The magic number is five, meaning any combination of Warriors wins or San Antonio losses adding up to five would give the Warriors (61-14) the top seed throughout.

Stephen Curry scored 29 points, Klay Thompson tossed in 23, David West a season-high 15 and Andre Iguodala 14 as the Warriors, coming off a win at Houston on Tuesday, swept the toughest back-to-back set of the season.

Kawhi Leonard paced the Spurs (56-17) with 19 points, on 7-of-20 shooting. The Warriors offset a 42-34 rebounding disadvantage by limiting San Antonio to 41-percent shooting.

STANDOUT PERFORMERS

Curry carried a large measure of the scoring load, but Iguodala and West had terrific all-around games that included timely scoring.

Curry’s line: 29 points (9-of-20 shooting from the field, 4-of-8 from deep, 7-of-7 from the line), 11 assists and three rebounds. He played 35 minutes and finished plus-6.

Iguodala’s line: 14 points (6-of-9, 2-of-3 from deep), six rebounds, two steals and one assist. He played 30 minutes and was plus-17.

West’s line: 15 points (7-of-11, 1-of-2 from deep), five assists, four rebounds and two blocks. He played 22 minutes and finished plus-23.

TURNING POINT

When the Spurs went up 43-29 on a jumper by Kawhi Leonard with 6:46 remaining in the second quarter, the Warriors went on a 16-2 run to pull into a 45-45 tie on a Shaun Livingston jumper with 3:29 left in the half.

That wiped out a deficit that had ranged as high as 22 points.

The Warriors took the lead for good 80 seconds into the second half. San Antonio got no closer than five in the fourth quarter.

INJURY UPDATE

Warriors: F/C James Michael McAdoo (L eyebrow laceration) was listed as probable and made available. F Kevin Durant (L knee sprain, bone bruise) and F Kevon Looney (R hip strain) were listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.

Spurs: G Dejounte Murray (L groin strain) was listed as out.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors return to action Friday night, when they close out their season series with the Houston Rockets at Oracle Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.