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Rubino: 22 years since Warriors made back-to-back playoffs

  • For Editorial Use Only,

    Golden State Warriors Chris Mullin.

    Chris Mullin - Golden State Warriors - File Photos

    Various Stadiums

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    Circa 1990's

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The Warriors are in the NBA playoffs for the second year in a row. Because that's such a rare occurrence, the statement deserves repeating. The Warriors are in the NBA playoffs for the second year in a row.

How rare of an occurrence is it?

It hasn't happened in 22 years. And before that, consecutive appearances in the playoffs hadn't happened for the Warriors in 15 years, at the end of a veritable golden age for Golden State, when Al Attles coached the team to its third consecutive postseason and sixth in seven years, a giddy run of excellence that included the 1975 NBA championship.

So, the Warriors currently are making a playoff appearance in consecutive seasons for only the second time in 37 years. That qualifies as a wow. A big wow.

When the Warriors went into the playoffs for a second consecutive season in 1992, they were there for the third time in Don Nelson's fourth year as coach and had won 55 games in the regular season. That's more than any other Warriors team has won since, and the second-most wins in the franchise's 53-year Bay Area history.

Going into that 1992 postseason, Golden State was seeded third in the Western Conference, having tied for regular-season wins with the Utah Jazz and only two games behind the top-seeded Portland Trail Blazers. Besides Portland, only two other teams in the NBA had a better regular-season record than the Warriors — the Chicago Bulls with 67 victories and the Cleveland Cavaliers with 57. In the previous season, the Warriors had won 11 fewer games but still made it to the conference semifinals. So, yeah, the Warriors who came into the playoffs 22 years ago weren't just showing up to take a bow and go quietly into the offseason. They had ambitions.

They had Finals ambitions.

There were, though, discomfiting omens. The Warriors' last four defeats of the regular season were to Western Conference opponents, including back-to-back defeats on April 5 and 7 to the Blazers.

And there was this head-scratching statistic: The Warriors scored the most points in the NBA, averaging 118.7 per game, but they yielded the most, 114.8 per game. It was, alas, the kind of team that would come to identify Nellie Ball: exciting, high-flying, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink offense, with a defense whose existence was an unconfirmed rumor.

Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway, both of whom played in 81 of 82 regular-season games and averaged more than 41 minutes, led the team in scoring, averaging 25.6 and 23.4, respectively. Hardaway also averaged 10 assists, and Billy Owens led in rebounds, averaging eight to go along with his 14 points.


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