Warriors winning, but 'can't afford letdown'
Published: Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 9:10 a.m.
MIAMI — Now, having surpassed even the wildest of expectations by winning the first five games on this seven-game trip, the Warriors have another challenge. Handling success.
They haven't been eight games over .500 since the 2007-08 season. They have the fifth-best record in the NBA heading into Friday's game at Orlando. Their bandwagon is as crowded as the Bay Bridge on a Tuesday morning.
Will the Warriors start admiring their work and lose their edge? They don't seem to think so, pointing to the fact that nine of the 13 players on the trip showed up for Thursday's optional shootaround in Miami.
“We are a humble team,” power forward David Lee said. “We know we're not the most talented team in the league. We can't underestimate anybody, and it'll continue to be that way, even if we win 30 games in a row. We can't afford a letdown.”
Of course, finding reasons to be motivated is no difficult task for this Warriors' squad. This team is a collection of criticized and overlooked players, ever fighting for respect. For years, the Warriors have been a blue-and-gold towel with which the elite wipe off their sweat.
Even before this season, despite upgrading the roster, many picked them to finish in the cellar of the Western Conference.
“We thought that we had a chance to be a solid six-through-eight seed in the West,” Lee said. “I understand a lot of people thought we weren't going to make the playoffs, but just the amount of negativity towards our team and towards individual players. And you know what, that's why we're going to go out every single night and play with a chip on our shoulder and try to prove everybody wrong.”
Even tonight at Orlando, Golden State will have the revenge factor. The Warriors' last loss was to the Magic in Oakland, ending a three-game win streak.
That was the second time this season the Warriors had their momentum snatched by a bad loss. (After a big win on the road over the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 3, Golden State fell the next night at Sacramento.)
In case none of that works, the Warriors seem to have an expert motivator on the bench. Coach Mark Jackson has no problem stirring up his troops. He did it last year with a patchwork roster. He's doing it again with these guys, though they're more talented and having success.
Jackson said even when center Andrew Bogut returns — and he won't be able to play the undersized underdog card — he has ample material.
Before the Miami game, Jackson pulled out the story of how George Foreman, then 45 years old, refused to sit down between rounds and wound up knocking out heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in 1994.
“Shakespeare said there are sermons in stones,” Jackson said. “I guess because of the preacher in me, it's easy. ... They're all trap games for us. We've got to play our brand of basketball to put ourselves in position to win. We understand who we are and how we have to go about winning. So win, lose or draw against Orlando, it won't be because we aren't ready.”
Lee is the first Warriors player to have at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in six consecutive road games since Nate Thurmond in 1972. Thurmond also had an eight-game streak during the 1970-71 season.
Over his last six road games — the first five of this trip and Nov. 23 at Denver — Lee is averaging 23.7 points on 56.4 percent shooting with 12.8 rebounds.
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