With their 120-98 thrashing of Portland on Wednesday, the Warriors completed a dramatic late-season turnaround. For their efforts, they found themselves in a position that has been foreign to them since 1994 — a postseason participant.
Just months ago, the Warriors were foundering with a 26-35 record and it seemed that they would extend their NBA-worst streak of consecutive seasons without a playoff berth to 13.
But with midseason acquisitions Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington breathing new life into the team, the Warriors finished the season hotter than any squad in the NBA, going 16-5 over their final 21 games, including winning nine of their last 10, to secure a winning record (42-40) for the first time since they won 50 games in ’94.
Much of the credit goes to coach Don Nelson, who pulled enough of the right strings to get the Warriors into the playoffs for the first time since he regularly led them to the postseason during his first stint as Golden State’s coach in the early ’90s.
Making the playoff run all the more enticing is that the eighth-seeded Warriors will be matched up against the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks (Nelson’s former team), a squad Golden State posted a resounding 3-0 record against during the regular season.
While grateful to be back in the postseason for the first time since the Clinton administration, most Warriors fans are now salivating at the chance to get a crack at the Mavericks in the playoffs.
"I don’t think an eight seed can ever be considered a favorite against a one seed, but with the way Nelson has exploited the matchups this season against the Mavs, the Warriors have to be confident," said Peter Mikacich, a Warriors fan and 15-yearSan Francisco resident. "The Warriors are just playing such an exciting, unselfish brand of basketball right now. It truly seems like they are playing their best at just the right time."
With a squad full of athletic young talents such as Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins mixing with vets Baron Davis and Jason Richardson, the Warriors appear to have laid the groundwork for postseason appearances in years to come.
But Warriors fans have been bitten by promises of potential before and many are convinced that Nelson will have to stay for Golden State to remain a factor in the competitive Western Conference.
"It all depends on keeping Nelson here," Warriors fan Neil Golden said. "I think it’s pretty much entirely about him. If he helps the team stay in the right direction, they should be able to get better each year."
Even with the threat of the notoriously fickle Nelson leaving at some point, Warriors fans can be happy with the end result of this season’s inspired effort.
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