Warriors clinch playoff spot in win over Lakers
LOS ANGELES (AP) Stephen Curry realizes a playoff berth is still a precious commodity for the Golden State Warriors, who have spent the majority of their existence watching the postseason from their collective couches in the Bay Area.
Curry and the Warriors celebrated their latest playoff clincher at Staples Center with not much more than handshakes.
Still, the win was sweet in so many ways for a franchise that has spent decades looking up at the once-mighty Los Angeles Lakers.
Curry had 30 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, and the Warriors secured another playoff berth with a 112-95 victory over the Lakers on Friday.
Klay Thompson and Marreese Speights scored 16 points apiece for the Warriors, who will make back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 1992. That’s no small achievement to Curry, who had his fourth triple-double of the season.
”We know the history of this franchise, and to keep making strides toward being a perennial playoff contender, these are big strides,” said Curry, who hit four three pointers. ”We knew it was going to be different this year, having new expectations. We’re just glad we can keep playing.”
Curry grabbed a defensive rebound with 41 seconds left to wrap up his fifth career triple-double. The speedy point guard is the first Warriors player with four in a single season since Wilt Chamberlain had five in 1963.
Coach Mark Jackson noted the difference between this muted celebration and last season’s cathartic clincher, which wrapped up Golden State’s second playoff berth in 20 seasons.
”We are not that far removed from dreaming of this moment,” Jackson said. ”(But) we know we’re a good basketball team now. That’s why you don’t see shouting and screaming and soaking-wet guys. We expected to be here. We celebrated the moment, and now we’re on to bigger things.”
After blowing a 20-point lead and a chance to clinch at home against Denver on Thursday night, Curry and the Warriors snapped an 11-game road losing streak against the Lakers.
Golden State also won its season series with the Lakers for the first time since 1994-95, and the Warriors are one victory shy of the franchise record for road victories (24) and its first 50-win season since 1993-94.
The Warriors are likely to be the Western Conference’s sixth seed, which would mean they’ll return to Staples Center next week to face the Pacific Division champion Clippers.
”There’s still more to do, but it’s a good step forward for this organization to have back-to-back playoff seasons,” Thompson said. ”We want it to be something that’s normal.”
The Warriors had little trouble with the remnants of the Lakers, opening a 20-point lead in the third quarter and cruising to just their second road win over the 16-time NBA champions in 22 games.
Nick Young scored 25 points for the Lakers, who set a franchise low with the 54th loss of their miserable season. The 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers lost 53 times in their 72-game season.
Steve Nash and Pau Gasol sat out for the Lakers, who will miss the playoffs for just the third time since 1976.
”(The Warriors) are a good team, and they proved it,” said Jodie Meeks, who scored 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting. ”All we can do is keep playing. Nobody in this locker room is giving up.”
Steve Blake had 13 points, five assists and five rebounds in his first road game against the Lakers since they traded him to Golden State on Feb. 19. The veteran point guard hit three 3-pointers during his highest-scoring game since joining the Warriors.
”He didn’t have to come in and hit 3-pointers on us right away,” Young said. ”I’m proud of him. He is doing well.”
Only nine Lakers suited up, thanks to their usual lengthy list of injured players: Nash, Gasol, Chris Kaman, Kent Bazemore and Xavier Henry all sat out. Nash experienced a flare-up of his season-long problems with his back and hamstrings on Tuesday while passing Jackson for third place on the NBA’s career assists list.
Andre Iguodala and Jermaine O’Neal sat out for Golden State, with Iguodala resting his right knee tendinitis for the second time this month.
David Lee had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Warriors, coming off the bench in his return from a seven-game absence with right leg problems.
Curry was sharp from the opening tip, scoring 11 points in each of the first two quarters. Even when he missed a breakaway dunk, he got the rebound and buried a 25-foot fall-away 3-pointer.
NOTES: The Lakers had planned to wear their black alternate jerseys, but the Warriors mistakenly packed their regular blue road jerseys, forcing Los Angeles to wear its traditional home gold. … The Warriors had lost 20 of their past 21 home games against the Lakers, losing only on March 23, 2008, when Stephen Jackson hit two last-minute 3-pointers.