Steinmetz: Warriors have keys to succeed — and fail — during homestretch

It’s nail-biting time for Warriors fans.

The Warriors are heading toward 50 wins for the first time in 14 seasons but are still no lock to make the playoffs. With two weeks remaining in the regular season — just eight more games — it’s time to take a look at a few reasons why the Warriors will make the playoffs … and a few reasons why they won’t.

WHY THEY WILL

» It’s Baron Davis’ year. He might not have been selected to play in this year’s All-Star Game, but there is no doubt Davis is playing at an All-Star level. He’s been the Warriors’ best and most consistent player, coming through time and time again in the clutch.

Not only is he the team leader in scoring, assists and steals, but when the Warriors really get into a jam, he’ll guard the opponents’ best player. Put bluntly, Davis won’t be denied this season.

» Dallas’ tough road. The Mavericks’ final eight games are tricky, to say the least. Still remaining on Dallas’ schedule are road games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers. The Mavs also have Utah and New Orleans, not to mention tonight’s game against the Warriors. The Mavs do have the Seattle SuperSonics twice more, however.

» Confidence. The Warriors have it. The Mavericks don’t seem to.

After last season’s 16-5 finish and a first-round upset of Dallas, the Warriors think they can accomplish anything. Their tough-minded approach — fueled by Davis and Stephen Jackson — is a big reason why they are over .500 on the road.

WHY THEY WON’T

» General fatigue. Coach Don Nelson has relied heavily on Davis, Jackson and Monta Ellis this season. Too heavily, some would say. Davis is playing close to 40 minutes a night and hasn’t missed a game this season. Jackson and Ellis have been right there with him.

All three have played through bumps and bruises, which is a big reason why the Warriors are on pace for 50 wins in the first place. But there are subtle signs the team’s overall energy level is waning — and Nelson is openly worrying about it.

» Inconsistent bench play. Mickael Pietrus, Kelenna Azubuike and Matt Barnes haven’t come through on a consistent basis. Pietrus was AWOL for much of the season, then came on, but is now hurt. Azubuike has been brilliant recently but went missing at other times this year. Barnes has been searching for his game most of the season.

» Not big enough. Simply put, the Warriors are one big man short. If Chris Webber had anything left in the tank, he would have helped. If rookie Brandan Wright were further along in his development, he could be chipping in right about now.

But with only Andris Biedrins manning the interior, the Warriors remain susceptible to players such as Brandon Bass, Paul Millsap, Rony Turiaf and the like.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.

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