Warriors return home with new identity

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Warriors return home with new identity

Like a kid back from college for the holidays, the Golden State Warriors return home on Tuesday night against the New Orleans Hornets with added layers of maturity and credibility.

The Warriors (16-8) are back at Oracle after a historic six-win, seven-game road trip that included wins against the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets. The franchise had never before gone 6-1 on a road trip in its history.

But, of course, one of Mark Jackson’s preferred sayings when he’s asked about the past of the Warriors is pretty straightforward: “It’s not our history.”

The Warriors head coach isn’t taking a shot at the franchise; he’s just focused on creating a new identity.

[RELATED: Mark Jackson -- 'We've done absolutely nothing']

And that’s exactly what the Warriors have been doing of late.

Led by the breakout season of Stephen Curry and the comeback play of David Lee, the Warriors currently sit in second place in the Pacific division and fifth place in the Western Conference.

This is little known territory for any Warriors team in recent years. The team is off to its best start since the 1991-92 season, having won 16 of its first 24 games for just the fifth time in 45 years.

Standing up against those old bullies
Like that matured kid coming back to his hometown, the Warriors are now stronger to take down some of those old foes.

Despite the monumental success against the Eastern Conference, the Warriors are still just 6-6 against the West thus far this season. In the you-never-thought-you’d-actually-hear-this category, the Warriors have games they should win coming up within conference play, including, yes, one against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Four of Golden State’s next five games come against fellow West opponents, beginning with tonight against the conference’s worst record, New Orleans. The Hornets (5-18) are struggling and have lost seven consecutive games.

The Warriors then travel to play the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night before returning back to Oakland on Friday to face one of the East's weaker teams, the Charlotte Bobcats.

Then it’s a home matchup with the Lakers on Saturday before flying to face the Utah Jazz a day after Christmas. When all is said and done, we could understand more about the Warriors’ identity.
 
Speaking of Lee and Curry
Lee took home Western Conference Player of the Week honors on Monday for his play on the road trip.

He averaged 22.8 points on 60.6 percent shooting and 12.5 rebounds per game in his big week. He also has seven consecutive games with 20 or more points or 10 or more rebounds.

Meanwhile, Curry is starting to gain more national recognition as a premier guard. Curry continues to impress, and is averaging 19.7 points and 6.5 assists per game.

Ezeli remains questionable
Festus Ezeli, after banging knees with Orlando’s Moe Harkless on Friday, remains questionable for tonight’s game vs. New Orleans with a right knee contusion.

Ezeli did not return after the knee collision on Friday night and was a late scratch on Saturday night in Atlanta.

It’s a rookie party
New Orleans features first overall pick Anthony Davis and No. 10 pick Austin Rivers.

Davis has only played in 10 games, but he's averaging 14.6 points and 7.4 rebounds. Davis missed 11 games due to a stress fracture in his left ankle, and returned on Dec. 12. Austin Rivers is averaging 8.0 points and 2.8 assists.

No. 7 overall pick Harrison Barnes is averaging 9.3 points and 4.4 rebounds.

For Warriors news and analysis, follow @jimmypspencer on Twitter and use the hashtag #WarriorsTalk for all in-game discussion.

Four takeaways from Warriors' first-round sweep of Blazers

Four takeaways from Warriors' first-round sweep of Blazers

PORTLAND -- Four games, four quarters to each and the Warriors are on to the next round of the postseason.

Here are four things we learned about these Warriors in the wake of their four-game sweep of the Trail Blazers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

IT’S A TEAM THING: The Warriors lost All-Star forward Kevin Durant in Game 1, came back and won Game 2. They lost head coach Steve Kerr before Game 3, went out and fashioned one of the biggest comebacks in franchise postseason history. They are constructed in such a way that the collective is strong enough to overcome the loss of one man. They won this series in a walk despite being shorthanded for the last three games and without their head coach for the last two. This team and this staff are bigger than any individual.

JAVALE McGEE MATTERS: By last Sept. 16 the summer was all but gone and every coveted player NBA player had been accounted for. That’s when the Warriors signed McGee with the hope that he could provide some length and athleticism on the block, if only for a few minutes a night -- and, surely, some nights not at all. McGee was the last man to make the team, and here he was dominating a Trail Blazers team that, to be fair, lacked a healthy center. He was special in this series, and what he provides will be needed as the Warriors move forward.

DRAYMOND’S VALUE IS BEYOND MEASURE: There were so many examples during the regular season that illustrated Draymond Green’s significance to the Warriors. He topped them all in this series. He defended, at some point, every member of the Portland team. He rebounded. He made 3-pointers. He blocked 17 shots. The Blazers tried him early but quickly become discouraged at attacking whenever he was on the court. He disrupted their offense in more ways than they could have imagined. As a bonus, he avoided notable run-ins with officials.

SPLASHING NOT NEEDED: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were fabulous in the second half of Game 3 and Curry stood out in Game 4. But by the time the Splash Brothers found their offensive groove, the Warriors were up 2-0 in the series and rallying behind their defense en route to taking Game 3. The battle of the backcourts, logically deemed a critical factor in this series, was a virtual statistical standoff. Curry/Thompson combined for 192 points, while Damian Lillard 111 and CJ McCollum totaled 201. If it’s the numbers are that close, the Warriors will win every series, and probably sweep.

 

Instant Replay: Warriors torch Blazers, complete first-round sweep

Instant Replay: Warriors torch Blazers, complete first-round sweep

BOX SCORE

PORTLAND -- Never allowing the Trail Blazers to find an offensive rhythm, the Warriors rolled to a 128-103 Game 4 triumph Monday night, completing a sweep of the first-round Western Conference playoff series.

The Warriors advance to the conference semifinals and will face the winner of the Jazz-Clippers series currently tied at two games apiece.

All five Warriors starters scored in double figures, with Stephen Curry scoring 37 points to lead the way. Draymond Green totaled 21, Klay Thompson 18 and Zaza Pachulia 11. David West scored 12 points off the bench.

Kevin Durant -- making his first appearance since Game 1 -- started and added 10 points, three rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal in 20 minutes of action.

The Warriors rode white-hot shooting from deep, making 17-of-29 (58.6 percent).

The Warriors silenced the Moda Center crowd early, outshooting Portland 62.5 percent to 29.6 percent in the first quarter before going on to finish with a 53.5-percent to 38.8-percent advantage for the game.

Damian Lillard scored 34 points to lead the Trail Blazers, who were ousted from the playoffs by the Warriors for the second consecutive year.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Curry, who struggled with his shot for the majority of the series, continued the hot streak he began in the fourth quarter of Game 1.

Curry’s line: 37 points (12-of-20 shooting from the field, including 7-of-11 from beyond the arc, 6-of-7 from the line), eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals. He played 30 minutes and finished plus-29 for the game.

Curry moved into a tie with Robert Horry for ninth place on the all-time list of 3-pointers in the postseason with 261.

TURNING POINT:
The Warriors took control immediately, going up 14-0 with 8:40 left in the first quarter and pushing it to 35-9 with 4:11 left in the quarter. They led by as much as 28 in the first half.

Portland got no closer than 18 in the second quarter, and no closer than 23 after intermission.

INJURY UPDATE:
Warriors: F Kevin Durant (L calf strain) was listed as questionable and upgraded to available prior to tipoff. F Matt Barnes (R foot/ankle bone bruise) and G Shaun Livingston (R index finger sprain, hand contusion) were listed as questionable and downgraded to out prior to tipoff. F Kevon Looney (L hip strain) was listed as out.

Blazers: G Allen Crabbe (L foot soreness) and G CJ McCollum (R ankle sprain) are listed as probable. C Jusuf Nurkic (L leg fracture) C Ed Davis (L shoulder surgery), C Festus Ezeli (L knee surgery) and C Jusuf Nurkic (R leg fracture) are listed as out.

WHAT’S NEXT:
The Warriors now await the winner of the Clippers-Jazz first-round series. Game 1 date TBD, either April 30 or May 2.