Editor’s note: Games 2 and 3 (and 5, 6 and 7 if necessary) of Warriors-Clippers will air on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Bookmark this page for comprehensive coverage of the Western Conference Quarterfinals series.
The end came with contentment Wednesday night, good reason for the Warriors to feel good about themselves and what they have accomplished thus far.
In concluding the regular season with a 116-112 win over the Nuggets in Denver, the Warriors flew back to Oakland knowing they had accomplished several goals for the night and, moreover, for the season.
This was their 51st win, the most for the franchise since the 1991-92 squad finished 55-27. The Warriors finished 20 games over .500 for the first time since '92, tied the franchise record for road wins with 24.
"It has been an awesome year," coach Mark Jackson said. "I will say it again: it has been an awesome year. Now we will turn the page and look forward to the challenge that lies ahead."
That would be the Los Angeles Clippers, the Warriors' opponent in the first round of the playoffs, beginning Saturday in Los Angeles. The two teams are very familiar with each other and there is no shortage of mutual contempt.
"It’s going to be a very entertaining series," point guard Stephen Curry said, "but I’m confident in the way we’re playing and what we’ll be able to do in this series.
"A lot of the experts picked Denver last year and they’re never 100 percent right. What matters is our belief in what we can do and how we go out and play. We’re ready to go."
The starters are ready to go in part because they didn't do much Wednesday night. Curry sat out the game, as did small forward Andre Iguodala, power forward David Lee and center Jermaine O'Neal. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green played very limited minutes.
If the reserves are ready, it's in part because of their work Wednesday. Small forward Harrison Barnes and shooting guard Jordan Crawford had career highs in scoring. Point guard Steve Blake played 47 minutes and commanded the floor, finishing with eight points, 15 assists, seven rebounds and seven steals.
“You always want to finish on a high note, have a good rhythm and a good feeling going into the playoffs," Blake said. "The guys competed and we did what we had to do to get the win, which is not easy on a night when people say it’s not worth much and we really don’t have to play hard."
THE GOOD: Barnes had his best game, with 30 points including a nasty dunk in the second quarter. After the season he has had, he needed a boost and got it.
In scoring 41 points, Crawford reminded everybody that he can do some of the same things associated with Jamal Crawford, the Clippers' dangerous sixth man.
Blake got in necessary work. He'll be needed to spell Curry and, at times, Thompson.
Third-string center Hilton Armstrong got the start and put up 10 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out.
THE BAD: Barnes missed seven of his 12 free throw attempts and Marreese Speights missed 10 of his 15 shots from the floor.
THE TAKE: Reaching the 51-win mark with their primary players as spectators or in limited roles was the perfect way for the Warriors to end the season. Give the reserves some run. Barnes, Crawford and Blake made good use of their time on the floor. The statistical team achievements for this season can only build self-esteem in a team that generally has plenty.