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.


Warriors as healthy as ever while playing waiting game for next opponent

Warriors as healthy as ever while playing waiting game for next opponent

OAKLAND -- Now that the Warriors have gone through a full-squad scrimmage for the first time in three weeks, there is only one issue to be resolved before they get back to the business of the playoffs.

Whom to play? And when?

As of Friday afternoon, the Warriors had no idea of either.

They will face the winner of the Clippers-Jazz first-round series, in which Utah took a 3-2 lead into Game 6 Friday night in Salt Lake City.

“Why are we talking about Utah like the Clippers are done?” Draymond Green wondered after fielding several Jazz-related questions after scrimmaging.

Well, because the Jazz won Games 4 and 5 and is favored to win Game 6 at home. If they win, they’ll come into Oracle Arena Sunday afternoon to meet the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

If the Clippers win Game 6 to even the series, those teams will meet for Game 7 Sunday in Los Angeles, with the winner advancing to face the Warriors in Game 1 of the conference semifinals next Tuesday night in Oakland.

In any case, the Warriors appear about as healthy has they have been at any time since February.

Veteran guard Shaun Livingston, out with a finger/hand injury since Game 1 (April 16) of the first-round series against Portland, participated in the scrimmage, as did veteran forward Matt Barnes, who last played on April 8, when he sustained a bone bruise atop his right foot.

“They practiced today and they even went through the scrimmage,” acting head coach Mike Brown said. “But we’ll wait for our training staff to clear them, after they see how they feel today and (Saturday).”

In short, if swelling is minimal, both will be available for Game 1, regardless of when.

So, too, will Kevin Durant. After a strained left calf kept him out of Games 2 and 3 against the Trail Blazers, he started and played 20 minutes in decisive Game 4 without any ill effects.

Nothing changed during the scrimmage Friday.

“It felt great out there,” he said. “Nothing bothered me. It was definitely good. I’m just trying to hopefully put that injury stuff behind.”

Durant conceded that he continues to receive treatment and ice, but mostly to minimize potential swelling.

Durant makes plea to NBA officials: 'S--- talking is part of the game'

Durant makes plea to NBA officials: 'S--- talking is part of the game'

OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant wishes more NBA officials had a better grasp of the language of the game.

They don’t seem to understand that “trash talk” almost always is little more than an act in which healthy emotions are released. It’s as much of the game on the court as pointing out a bad haircut or a fashion error in the locker room.

“I was raised that if you weren’t talking on the court, then something (bad) is going on,” Durant said after Warriors practice on Friday.

Durant caught a glimpse of the chatter earlier this week between former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook and Houston guard Patrick Beverley in decisive Game 5 of the Thunder-Rockets series and was disappointed when the officials slapped each with a technical foul.

“I was like, ‘Man, just play on. It’s a part of the game,’” Durant said.

Though Durant himself is not a premier trash-talker, he plays alongside one in fellow forward Draymond Green.

“That’s why we started playing, to talk a little s--- here and there,” said Durant, who grew up in the Washington D.C. area. “Draymond is really good at it. There are a lot of guys in the league that are good. More guys are quiet now than before.

“But s--- talking is a part of the game. I love it. It’s fun when you’re on the same team as a guy that does it. And then, when you’re playing against it, it’s even better because it brings the best out of you.”

For Durant, there always will be a place for trash talk on the court. Not only did he experience it while growing up but he also was indoctrinated in the practice from the moment he arrived in the NBA in 2007.

He recalls, with fondness, being targeted as a rookie by Kevin Garnett and a few other Celtics.

“When I came into the league, that’s when the Celtics had just got together,” Durant said. “Paul Pierce and KG and those guys talked bad to me as a rookie. I was 19. And they talked so bad to me. And I was talking right back. It was just a fun exchange. That’s what basketball is about.”

Now if only he could get officials to realize this.