Kamenetzky: The Cali Report – Heading down the home stretch

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Kobe BryantThe 2012-13 regular season is heading into the home stretch, and three of California’s four teams are neck deep in postseason intrigue (leaving only Sacramento, a city and franchise dealing with plenty of intrigue even without any playoff hopes). What does the landscape look like with about 20 games to play?

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (35-27)

The NBA’s feel-good story of the first half has taken a decidedly dark warriors small logoturn over the last month. Since capping a four-game winning streak over the Suns on Feb. 2, the Warriors had lost 10 of 14 heading into Wednesday’s home game vs. the Kings at Oracle Arena.

The bleeding has been profuse and emphatic. Only once in those 10 games – Feb. 27 at Madison Square Garden – did the Dubs manage to keep the final score within five points. In the process, Mark Jackson’s crew became an unlikely dark horse entry into the Team That Might Drop Out So The Lakers Can Go to the Playoffs Sweepstakes, dropping to sixth in the Western Conference – and closer to ninth than fifth.

For a franchise making the playoffs only once since the 1994, that sort of thing induces fingernail chewing.

Which is why Wednesday’s ugly 87-83 win, the second of a seven-game homestand, was so critical. On Monday, the Warriors returned home with a victory over the Raptors despite trailing by seven points heading into the fourth quarter. Sensing how bad things might get extending a losing streak against a team with only eight victories south of the border, Golden State hit the gas. It took two minutes for the Warriors to erase the deficit. “I was really proud of the way we responded,” Jackson said. “Starting that fourth quarter, they had everything going their way, but we came out with a sense of urgency.”

Afterward, Jarrett Jack made it clear the squad’s joie de vivre had evaporated as the losses piled up, and getting it back was key.

“Collectively, we just got away from having fun, smiling, laughing, high-fiving one another,” Jack said. “That was my total mind-set, regardless of whether or not I scored.” Jack, who actually scored 16 points against the Raptors, didn’t tell his teammates to loosen up before the game, he just led by example.”We’d done enough talking,” Jack said. “We had enough team meetings and talking about what we needed to do to correct things. Let’s lead by our actions. Just give everything I got and play with a care-free attitude.”

It’s not uncommon for young, unproven teams to struggle once people get over the surprise of Bogutgood results and start expecting them. If the Warriors can rediscover those things driving their success earlier in the season – an improved defense and consistent rebounding, to name two – and go even 4-3 on the home stand, likely only something catastrophic would prevent them from earning a spot in the West’s top eight, even with games remaining against Houston and Utah, plus two against the Lakers.

Style points (fortunately) don’t matter. Just victories, and Golden State is already 2-for-2.

Keeping Andrew Bogut on the floor will help. The Aussie center returned to the lineup against Toronto after missing the Warriors’ East Coast swing with back problems. While his totals in the first two games of the home stand were relatively modest (three points,eight rebounds), he’ll give them more legitimate scoring inside while using high-end passing skills to set up the team’s shooters. Plus, he can give badly needed support inside to David Lee, a double-double machine but a pretty awful defender. Wednesday, Bogut was a plus-9 despite playing only 30 minutes.

– Brian Kamenetzky

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (44-19)

Sunday’s nationally televised home game against the Thunder didn’t exactly go as planned. Blake clippers60Griffin was forced to the bench with foul trouble barely four minutes in, then was forced to the floor when Serge Ibaka went all I-block-a on his groin. Meanwhile, Chris Paul struggled early, and fueled by 16 first-half turnovers, the Clippers fell behind big. A clever switch to a 3-2 zone defense helped the LAC climb back in it and even take a one-point lead with 90 seconds remaining. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

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Comments

  1. kilgary I see what youre saying about Anaheim, and as a city it has a huge money per capita with an arena to boot, not sure how old it is. But if the NBA and investors wanted to be successful the best way would be for them to carve out their own hungry fanbase elsewhere, and California already seems to have its fair share of NBA teams.

    For them its not about trying their luck in seattle, they already have feelers and supposedly also have financial backing which was what they needed to begin anew. There is no guarantee a new team outside of L.A. would have been as successul given the Clippers/Lakers recent successes to get ‘Kings’ fans there, that seems more like a risky move to me than moving to a city with no team at all, and an equally rich city,… smells like coffee.

  2. Gwydion says:

    The Warriors need a center on the floor at all times, not necessarily Bogut although he is certainly the best. The thing that started killing their defense was overplaying the Lee-Landry frontline. This team has always overvalued offense which they have plenty of. Until they change that focus, the dismissal of the W’s as a serious challenger will remain.

  3. Kilgary says:

    I don’t know why the conventional wisdom remains that the Warriors need Bogut on the floor. Hasn’t anyone noticed they started losing when they worked Bogut into the rotation? They were winning at an astounding clip the first half of the season while Bogut was rehabbing. With two games against the Lakers and one against Houston remaining, the Warriors are going to have a tough time not falling to the #8 seed. I’m still putting money on Utah at #9. As for the Kings, what happened to Anaheim? Orange County fans will support a NBA team if it puts a decent product on the floor. Look how many turn out in the pre-season. Turning Anaheim into a 3 sport team with the Kings seems to be smarter than trying their luck in Seattle. Isn’t there a good reason the Thunder reside in OKC?

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