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Why the Warriors game is important

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Published: January 29, 2009

Let’s see… Golden State, 14 wins, pretty much a lock to score a useless #8 pick in next year’s draft and waste it on some magic beans.  A roster bogged down with fantasy flash but very few real players — the obvious exception being the Baltic Beast starting at center who shoots like 90% from the field.  All in all, not much of a case for what this should be the biggest game of the year, to date.

But in fact, tomorrow night’s tip with the Warriors is probably the biggest game of the year.  We’ve started the second half of the season right, with a gutsy win over the Nuggets.  We’re looking ahead to a smoother second half schedule.  Somehow this team has been branded disappointing yet we’re just 1.5 games shy of a #2 seed in the playoffs.

But the timing of this crucial match goes well beyond that.  It’s about the last five games.  West and Chandler, already looking a little softer than last year, have left the 4-5 spot vacant and exposed an emaciated bench.  And yet, since West left the lineup (and Chandler one game later) we’ve won 4 of 5… and it took 52 points in the paint from the T-Wolves to put up that one loss.

I’d be an imbecile to say that we’re better off with Chandler and West in street clothes… but what strikes me is that none of our big men have really stepped up.  What that means is that we’re doing the intangible things to elevate our game as a team.  Small forwards are playing bigger.  We’re moving the ball better.  We’ve taken these two injuries on the chin, but managed to make some tweaks and turn up the grit, to squeeze out four wins out of five.

That’s a clear indication of the latent edge we’ve been waiting for.  All season long, people have been wondering why the Hornets seem to have slid from a year ago.  But what strikes me the most is that this team has gelled in the face of tough circumstances, and done so in way which bodes well for April.  In the playoffs, the teams that tend to get by are the ones who improvise the best.  We failed to do that against the Spurs, we’ve failed to do it at times this year, but this team is learning how

Remember this folks… our core team has only gotten better since last year.  I want to see an 18 point blowout tomorrow night, with West and Chandler taking it nice and easy.  It’s going to be a hell of a second half.

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