Before the Golden State Warriors figure out how to succeed in the first round of the playoffs without starting center Andrew Bogut, they’ll look to conclude the regular season with their most victories in 22 years.
The Warriors will try to top the 50-win mark Wednesday night when they visit the Denver Nuggets.
Last season, Golden State (50-31) upset third-seeded Denver in its first playoff series since 2007. While the Nuggets (36-45) won’t be returning to the postseason, the Warriors are headed to the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1991-1992 as the No. 6 seed.
After securing their first 50-win season since ’93-94 with a 130-120 home victory over Minnesota on Monday, the Warriors will top that mark for the first time since going 55-27 two years earlier – if they can avoid a third straight defeat to Denver.
"Fifty is a special number," coach Mark Jackson said. "Some of (the team members) never hit 50, and I don’t want to be prophetic, but some of them, there’s a chance they won’t ever hit 50 again."
How far Golden State advances in the playoffs depends on if it’s able to overcome the loss of the 7-foot Bogut, who will miss his second straight contest Wednesday and possibly all of the postseason with a fractured rib. Though Bogut averages 7.3 points, he ranks among the league leaders with 10.0 rebounds per game and provides an obviously strong defensive presence in the paint.
His absence leaves the Warriors severely undersized with 35-year-old Jermaine O’Neal as the only other serious inside option.
"We hope a miracle happens with Andrew," said star guard Stephen Curry, who is averaging a career-high 24.0 points. "We’ll see what happens, but as a team we’re focused on what the challenge ahead of us is and we’ve got to move forward."
The Warriors will be sure to follow the lead of Curry, who had 32 points with 15 assists against the Timberwolves. He’s averaged 32.8 points on 54.2 percent shooting in the last five games and recorded at least 12 assists in three of those contests.
Curry scored 24 in each of the last two home losses to the Nuggets after he was held to 14 during the Warriors’ 89-81 win at Denver on Dec. 23.
Teammate David Lee scored 28 points in that contest, and had 25 on Monday as Golden State overcame 53.1 percent shooting from Minnesota and 40 points from Kevin Love.
The Warriors hope for a better defensive effort during this postseason tune-up after yielding 239 points on 51.5 percent shooting in the last two games.
Kenneth Faried hit a turnaround hook shot with a half-second remaining in Denver’s 100-99 victory at Golden State Thursday.
"We showed that we have the fight and will to win," Faried said after he finished with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
Denver’s Timofey Mozgov set a career high with 29 rebounds and matched a personal best with 23 points in that contest.
Teammate Randy Foye has totaled 41 points in the two games at Golden State after he was held to one made free throw in 10 minutes of the December home defeat.
Faried had 21 points and Mozgov added 18 with 11 boards Tuesday, but Denver allowed the Los Angeles Clippers to shoot 53.0 percent during a 117-105 road defeat that snapped its three-game winning streak.