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The Future's Bright…
by Matt Forsman on Apr 15, 2005
Despite being out of the playoff hunt, the Golden State Warriors have been playing with playoff like intensity for the past month putting together a lengthy string of wins and consistent performances that almost makes one forget how abysmally this team played in the earlier parts of the season. The Warriors would need this kind of intensity for two tough games last week against the Western Conference leading Phoenix Suns and the consistently threatening San Antonio Spurs.
But, first Golden State headed to Portland to face another team that will not be appearing in the playoffs, the TrailBlazers. Golden State was playing for their seventh win in a row and their 30th win of the season. The Warriors certainly played like there was plenty at stake with the entire starting five contributing to an impressive 33 point first quarter that gave Golden State a five-point advantage heading into the second quarter.
The Warriors started the second quarter hot with Mike Dunleavy and Rodney White each hitting three pointers to extend Golden State's lead to 18 barely two minutes into the quarter. Portland's Ruben Patterson and Shareef Abdur-Rahim managed to a few points on the board, but Golden State would not relent and carried a 10-point lead into the locker room.
The first half of the third quarter was a shooting bonanza with Golden State posting 16 points and Portland posting 21 points. The Trail Blazers managed to cut into Golden State's lead and were down by six entering the final quarter. The fourth quarter was comparatively quiet for both teams as the two scored a total of 15 points halfway through the fourth. Golden State would ultimately hold off the Trail Blazers, winning by a score of 104-102.
On Friday, Golden State hosted the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were riding a six game win streak and Golden State's win streak stood at seven. The question was which team would blink first. The Suns controlled most of the first quarter en route to a 37 point first quarter. Golden State was down by seven in the waning minutes of the first, but rallied to cut the lead to one by quarter's end.
Momentum seemed to shift in Golden State's favor in the early going of the second quarter as the Warriors took a six-point lead four minutes into the second quarter. Then, Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire started to heat up. Converting a multitude of layups, free throws, and slam-dunks, Stoudemire gave Phoenix a ten-point advantage at the end of the half, 68-58.
Mike Dunleavy led the charge for the Warriors in the opening minutes of the third quarter, cutting the lead to five with just under five minutes left in the quarter. Some clutch three pointers by Troy Murphy and Jason Richardson put the Warriors within a single point of Phoenix. This high scoring affair was all tied up at 90 apiece as the fourth quarter commenced. Halfway through the final quarter, and the game was still tied at 106-106. Mickael Pietrus and Mike Dunleavy each sank a three pointer and gave Golden State a seven point lead with two minutes to play. The Warriors held off a tough Phoenix team posting a 129-119 victory in Oakland.
Golden State headed to San Antonio on Sunday to finish their impressive week against another Western Conference powerhouse, the Spurs. Playing without perennial MVP candidate, Tim Duncan, the Warriors were looking to capitalize and increase their win streak to nine. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Rasto Nesterovic were sidelined with injuries leaving Tony Parker to lead the way for the Spurs. He was clearly up to the challenge in the first quarter as he got things started for the Spurs offensively. Hitting layups and jumpshots, Parker led the Spurs to a 29-25 advantage heading into the second quarter.
The Warriors found some offensive rhythm in the second quarter behind Baron Davis and took a four-point lead of their own into the second half, 53-49. The Warriors began to heat up in the latter part of the third quarter behind Baron Davis and Jason Richardson, taking a ten-point lead with five minutes left in the quarter. Golden State held an eight-point advantage heading into the decisive quarter.
Despite holding an 11 point advantage during the fourth, the Warriors were unable to close things out, allowing Tony Parker and the Spurs to claw their way back into the game and force overtime. Neither team could seize a substantive advantage in the first overtime and the game headed to a second overtime at 130 apiece. The second overtime was not exactly a scoring onslaught with only three points scored between the two teams with just over two minutes left. Jason Richardson missed a jump shot at the buzzer and Golden State fell 136-134 in an epic battle.
Fatigued after a tough loss, Golden State headed to Denver on Monday to face a team that has been perhaps even hotter than the Warriors. Having posted seven straight wins and 22 of the past 24, the Nuggets have surged into the playoffs threatening to take the sixth position. Golden State struggled in the earlier going while Denver had their offense grooved from the outset, taking an eleven point lead midway through the first quarter and led by 7 at the break, 36-29.
The Warriors would tie things up at 43 after Jason Richardson hit two consecutive three pointers. However, this is as close as Golden State would get in the second quarter as Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony helped the Nuggets regain the lead by halftime, 68-64. Jason Richardson and Baron Davis would rally the Warriors to a momentary lead in the early portion of the third quarter only to see it quickly disappear under the onslaught of Carmelo and crew. Denver forced a Golden State timeout when they took a ten-point lead with five minutes left in the quarter.
Down by twelve heading into the final quarter, the Warriors would need to step it up to have a chance at upsetting Denver on the road. Things looked bleak for Golden State as Denver continued to apply pressure, stretching their lead to 21 with eight minutes left in the game. Jason Richardson erupted and helped cut this lead to nine forcing Denver to regroup. This timely timeout would prove to be the Warriors undoing as Golden State's offense faltered allowing Denver to pad their lead to 14 with just under three minutes remaining. Denver closed things out comfortably, 122-106.
Golden State travels to Minnesota on Wednesday to face a Timberwolves team that is barely mathematically alive in the playoff hunt, but has been playing consistent ball as of late. The Warriors finish their week on Friday against the flailing Portland Trailblazers. While the Warriors win streak has come to a close, Golden State has an opportunity to close out the season on a high note with four winnable games remaining on their schedule.
by Matt Forsman on Apr 15, 2005