Richardson, Warriors Take 8th Place

By: AP
By: AP

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Under an airbrushed trucker's hat and thick shades, Baron Davis was ready to party after his Warriors' superb Sunday on both ends of the Golden State.

Yet the evening's celebration was strictly for Davis' 28th birthday. He knows the Warriors' 12-year playoff drought won't end without three more days of hard work -- even after the Clippers handed him quite a gift.

Jason Richardson had 32 points and 12 rebounds, and the Warriors surged ahead in the race for the Western Conference's final playoff spots with a 121-108 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Warriors (40-40) did it with one eye on the out-of-town scoreboard, watching Los Angeles (39-41) fall out of an eighth-place tie with Golden State in a 105-100 loss to Sacramento.

After a dozen losing years featuring every manner of bad breaks, the Warriors finally got a key piece of good fortune that had their fans standing and cheering. Though it seemed improbable six weeks ago, the Warriors can end the NBA's longest current streak out of the playoffs with season-ending wins over Dallas and Portland.

"We're in the driver's seat, and what better position do you want, going into the last two games?" asked Davis, who had 17 points and seven assists before heading into San Francisco for an elaborate birthday celebration.

"We're playing good basketball right now. We've got great chemistry, and we're still learning and improving. But we know we're not there yet. Dallas is the best team in the league. We've still got to keep our eye on what we want to do."

The Warriors got back to .500 for the first time since mid-January with their seventh victory in eight games -- and they even moved into a seventh-place tie with the Lakers, who played later Sunday.

Golden State has won 14 of its last 19 games, surging back into the playoff race after even coach Don Nelson thought it was too late.

"We haven't had the luxury of controlling our own destiny for a while, and that's why we fought so hard, and have the record that we do down the stretch," Nelson said.

The Warriors haven't even been at .500 since Jan. 7, when they were 18-18 -- and one day earlier, they were above .500 after Jan. 1 since the 1993-94 season. Golden State made its last playoff appearance that spring under Nelson, who returned last summer.

Richardson, who also had four 3-pointers and seven assists, scored 20 points in the first half and 12 more in the third quarter, hitting 11 of his 17 shots. His inside-out game was too much for Minnesota's defenders, and he punctuated Golden State's decisive third-quarter run with a thunderous dunk.

"This is what I've been waiting for," said Richardson, who has spent his entire six-season NBA career with Golden State. "This is what our franchise needs. I'm just going to give it everything I've got to make sure we get there."

Al Harrington scored 18 points for Golden State, which took a 20-point lead on the undermanned Timberwolves in the first half, then poured it with 20 consecutive points in the third quarter.

The crowd began a late chant of "Playoffs! Playoffs!" They were joined by Harrington and Stephen Jackson from their seats on the bench.

Thousands of fans stayed behind after the final buzzer to watch the scoreboard for updates on the Kings' win over the Clippers, chanting "Beat L.A.!" and erupting in applause at the final score.

Ricky Davis scored 21 of his season-high 42 points in the meaningless fourth quarter for the Timberwolves. Kevin Garnett sat out again with a sore right quadriceps as Minnesota lost for the 21st time in 28 games.

Mark Blount, who started the season's first 79 games for Minnesota, came off the bench and Justin Reed and Craig Smith started with the Timberwolves evaluating for next season.

"It's embarrassing to be down 40 points," Davis said. "Coach challenged us to get it under 20 points [in the fourth quarter], and we were able to get it under 20. We couldn't get a lot of jump shots with our small lineup."

Minnesota has been noncommittal about Garnett's status for its final games as the Timberwolves close out their first consecutive losing seasons since the 12-year veteran's first two years in the NBA. Coach Randy Wittman said Garnett is doubtful for Monday's game at Denver.

"I'm not blaming this loss on not having Kevin, absolutely not," Wittman said. "We don't have Kevin, but we don't have a lot of options in the paint. Who are you going to post up?"


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