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Warriors All-Star forward David Lee was visibly upset with the way Golden State played in Sunday’s 97-90 loss to Utah.
Lee, perhaps more than anyone on the team, has made it clear just how much a playoff berth would mean in his eighth year in the NBA.
“I’ve been waiting eight years for a night like (Sunday) to have a chance to clinch and make the playoffs,” he said. “It’s going to happen another night. We’re going to keep our heads up, but it was disappointing to lose this one.”
Sunday was simple: win and you’re in. The loss, however, complicated the process.
With a win Tuesday against Minnesota (29-47), Golden State (44-33) would still need some help to clinch just its second playoff berth in 19 years. Utah’s win vaulted it over the Los Angeles Lakers by a half-game for the No. 8 spot, which means if the Warriors win, they clinch with either a Utah loss at home to Oklahoma City or a Lakers loss at home to New Orleans.
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With five games left and a four-game cushion over the Lakers, the playoffs are all but assured, but coach Mark Jackson said the team’s play on Sunday reflected its position.
“They played like a team that their playoff lives depended on this game,” he said. “We played, at times, like a team that had a cushion.”
Despite his coach’s observation, Lee was unwilling to admit a lack of effort.
“I thought we were out there playing really hard,” he said. “I know that’s the message Coach Jackson said to us after the game. ... I don’t think it was a case of effort.”
Regardless, the team has turned the page to Minnesota, which has won three of four and six of its last ten. Seven players scored in double figures in the Timberwolves’ 107-101 win against Detroit on Saturday, including 20 from Nikola Pekovic and J.J. Barea.
In that game, coach Rick Adelman became the eighth coach in NBA history to register his 1,000th career victory -- with 66 of those wins coming as head coach of the Warriors from 1996-98. Adelman coached Carl Landry for two-plus seasons with the Houston Rockets.
The Warriors are looking to complete the four-game season sweep of Minnesota and have taken the last four dating back to March 19, 2012. Golden State has won 11 of the last 13 against the Timberwolves.