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OAKLAND -- It would have been bad, very bad, if the Warriors lost to the Lakers at home on Monday night.

The Warriors are a team on the rise and they are making their final push to the playoffs — they had 11 regular-season games remaining at tipoff. And they needed this win — 109-103. Coming into the game, their record in March was 7-6, no big deal. Since the All-Star Game, their record was a pedestrian 10-9.

And let's be honest, losing to the Lakers would have been humiliating.

Why?

Because the Lakers, such as they are, should go jump in the lake. Maybe they already have. For three quarters you watched them throw away the ball and miss ill-advised jump shot after ill-advised jump shot, and play zero defense, and have zero team concept, and tell Dwight Howard to go after Andrew Bogut, and Howard shot two air balls in the first three minutes.

And after each Howard miss, David Lee pumped his fist like a college player in the NCAA tournament. After falling behind 6-2 right away, the Warriors took the lead and expanded it — you could call it "score bloat," and never gave it up. At halftime the Warriors led 63-40.

"The first half we made a major statement," coach Mark Jackson said afterward.

The Warriors kept stating. They led 94-76 after three quarters — Klay Thompson 3-pointers and Stephen Curry jumpers and Jarrett Jack floaters. Swish. And even though Kobe Bryant scored 36 points, so what?

And you said to yourself, shaking your head in disbelief, "What was that about Steve Nash being the final piece the Lakers needed?" And you said to yourself, "Are these chumps really the Lakers?"

The Lakers came back in the fourth quarter when the game was over — really it was — and mounted a comeback that didn't succeed. The comeback was an illusion, a mere footnote. The Lakers, who have lost three in a row, should change their name to the L.A. Fakers.

Keep this in mind. The Warriors had Stephen Curry, who scored 25. Warriors coach Mark Jackson decided at game time his point guard could play, decided after Curry showed up during warm-ups and took jumpers and pivoted right and left, a man testing his ankle, his weak link.

You could argue Jackson took a big risk, an unwarranted risk, allowing Curry to play after he sprained his ankle Saturday night. It is a fair argument. The Warriors didn't really need this game, not in the grand scheme of things, not if Curry might miss the playoffs or be subpar — or sub-ankle.

But Jackson, who, before the game, had said, "We're not going to put anybody out there just to be out there. He's too valuable to us," is off the hook, considering the Warriors won and Curry's ankle didn't fall off, or disintegrate into dust.

And this victory meant a lot.

Why?

Because the Lakers own the Warriors. Amend that — have owned.

Three of the past four seasons the Lakers swept the Warriors in their season series. This season the Lakers, as bad as they are, came into Monday's game leading the Warriors 2-0 in games and were going for another sweep.

It never is good when a team owns you, or to steal a Duane Kuiper phrase, when a team has "ownage" on you.

On Monday night, the Lakers lost ownage, meaning the Warriors said nuts to that.

And there's more.

The Warriors won their 41st game, and that means this is their first .500-or-better season since 2007-2008.

There's more.

The Warriors addressed the balance of power in the West, rearranged it. They proved they are better than a poorly-coached collection of stars. And they proved they are better than the eighth — and last — seed for the playoffs, if the Lakers are lucky enough to make the playoffs.

This is important. Last season, the Warriors were the pits and now they are going to the playoffs — they really are. You must not take that improvement for granted or take it in stride. The Warriors are a major success story, even if their success is modest relative to the super teams of the league.

The Warriors almost surely will be the sixth seed and that means, as things stand now, they will avoid San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the first round, and that's huge.

And there's more.

Bogut's numbers were modest, four points in 30 minutes. But that's not the issue. The Warriors are beginning to run their offense through him and he is a defensive monster in the middle and he rebounds — he had nine — and he matches up with all the big centers in the league.

He is the center the Warriors have craved forever. And although he is not what he will be, he is not what he once was — an injured noncombatant who played selected games and didn't play others. A strange arrangement if there ever was one. He is coming back precisely when the Warriors need him. And isn't that intriguing?

And isn't it intriguing that the Warriors finally vanquished — dismissed — the Lakers?

Jackson addressed that in his postgame news conference, stressed it. "It's a message that was sent," he said. "I wanted my guys to understand we were the better basketball team. We've played 72 games and the survey says that we're the better basketball team. That can't be debated through 72 games. We respect them. They've got some guys who are going to be in the Hall of Fame. That being said, this is a different day and this is a different basketball team."

"Are you going to finish ahead of the Lakers?" one reporter asked.

A fierce look took hold of Jackson's face. "We are the better basketball team," he said. "They are in the rearview mirror. And I have not checked it and I will not."

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.