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Warriors' Golden Start Fuels Early Optimism

Oct 30, 2010 – 11:00 AM
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Sam Amick

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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Joe Lacob sat courtside at Oracle Arena on Friday night, clapping like the rest of the 17,408 in attendance during the home team's raucous rout of the Clippers, while the other team's mascot danced on the logo of the Golden State team he is expected to soon own.

It wasn't Clipper Darrell doing the boogie, though, so none of the locals had their blue-and-gold sensibilities offended. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was Lou Seal of the San Francisco Giants, visiting on a day off from his latest World Series shift in this baseball-crazed region.

While Lacob surely isn't delusional enough to be envisioning a trip to basketball's ultimate stage, the Warriors did indeed keep the Bay Area party rolling in a 109-91 win that set local history.

Only the woebegone Warriors could do such a thing just two games in, but their 2-0 start was the first of its kind since the 1994-95 campaign. That was back in the days of Don Nelson, Part One, the final campaign of Run TMC (Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin) or, for those who like the role player types, Rony Seikaly and Tim Legler. Those Warriors started 5-0 (and 7-1), only to finish 26-56 after Nelson was fired after a 14-31 start.

No one on the current roster needed that history lesson because no one was predicting playoffs even with the strong start, especially in light of the latest injury to Stephen Curry. Just after he was a big part of a 21-2 run to start the second half that stretched Golden State's four-point lead to 79-56, Curry's right heel clipped the leg of Blake Griffin (14 points on 6-of-14 shooting, 10 rebounds) as he went around his screen and the ankle crumbled a moment later.

Curry, who has now turned the ankle in three straight games (one preseason) and sat out of practices in between, remained on the ground while the entire team came on the floor to check on their young prodigy. He limped to the training room soon thereafter, and sounded afterward as if he is likely to miss Sunday's game at the Lakers.

While Curry told team members that he wants to face the Lakers, the fact that the Warriors don't play again until Wednesday against Memphis at home means there is significant reason to rest.

"I want to look at it one way," he said when asked if it would be difficult not playing the defending champions. "But a lot of guys give me advice about how long the season is and making sure it's 100 percent. Since we don't play until Wednesday, maybe that'd be a smart thing to miss Sunday and have almost a full week and get it right before our long road trip out east, so it all depends on how I feel tomorrow and go from there."

And not that it guarantees a win over the mighty Lakers, but Warriors guard Monta Ellis has certainly looked capable of making up for his absence if he opts for rest.

The new and improved Ellis -- on and off the court -- followed his 46-point scoring outburst against Houston Wednesday with a Curry-like 15-point, 11-assist outing against the Clippers. First-year coach Keith Smart, the undefeated successor to Nelson after his late-September dismissal, said it was the latest sign of Ellis' growth.

"That's maturity," Smart said. "He saw how the defense was playing, read it, saw that other guys were playing well and making plays, and he just simply became the facilitator. That's the maturity of where he's at right now...Last year or years in the past, he probably would've tried to get (his) numbers."

He'll likely have to get his numbers from a different position on Sunday, as Smart inferred that he'll insert Reggie Williams into the starting lineup to join Ellis in the backcourt if Curry doesn't play.

"Reggie for sure (will help in the backcourt)," Smart said before joking about the matter. "Monta slides over (to point guard). We'll try Point-Dorell (Wright). Point-(Andris) Biedrens, then we'll move on down the list. We can only play who we've got."

If the Warriors are to compete sans Curry against the Lakers, they could use another big night from first-year Warrior Dorell Wright.

The former Miami small forward tied his career high with six three-pointers (on eight attempts), scoring a game-high 24 points in all. He was one of the many feeling good about the this game and this group, with forward David Lee, who was brought via sign-and-trade over the summer on a six-year, $80 million deal, saying afterward "I've been on teams for three or four years that didn't have chemistry like this."

In that small sense, the Warriors are showing early signs of following in the Giants' well-chronicled footsteps. Once a locker room full of camps and cliques, there are stories of group get-togethers (including Ellis' birthday dinner with more than 10 members of the team) and an unfamiliar propensity from all involved for sharing the ball too much. There are likable characters, a humble coach and a shared will to improve as a unit.

It's only two games, but the Warriors managed to keep the Bay buzzing.

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Filed under: Sports