If the Golden State Warriors can keep protecting their home court, there's a good chance they'll make the postseason for the second time in 19 seasons.
The Warriors, though, should just be concerned about the taking care of the lowly Sacramento Kings, who will look to improve to 3-0 in the season series on Wednesday night in their first visit to Oakland in 2012-13.
With a run to the Western Conference semifinals in 2007 as the eighth seed their lone postseason appearance since 1994, the Warriors (34-27) currently sixth in the West are excited about participating in meaningful games down the stretch. They'll play 15 of their final 21 at Oracle Arena, with eight of those coming against teams at or below .500.
Sacramento (21-41) owns the West's worst record following Tuesday's 120-113 loss to Denver.
"It feels good that we put ourselves in position to get to this point,' said Warriors coach Mark Jackson, whose team opened a seven-game homestand - and snapped a four-game slide - with Monday's 125-118 victory over Toronto. "And now it's about sealing the deal, finishing up the season the right way. Our guys have earned that right, and it's great to be in this situation, but it's not just going to happen on its own.'
The Warriors, 19-7 at home, know that after already losing two close games to Sacramento. The Kings avoided their first 0-4 start in four seasons with a 94-92 victory on Nov. 5, and they snapped a five-game skid with a 131-127 win on Dec. 19 in one of the Warriors' worst defensive performances of the season.
Defense continues to be one of the Warriors' glaring weaknesses, as they've given up 109.7 points per game while dropping 10 of their last 14.
The Kings are averaging 110.9 points over their last 12, and they've hit 10 or more 3-pointers in six of seven.
"We've had enough team meetings and what we need to do to correct things. Let's lead by our action," Warriors point guard Jarrett Jack said.
The return of center Andrew Bogut, who had four points and eight rebounds on Monday after a six-game absence with back spasms, should help on the defensive end and on the glass. However, even with All-Star forward David Lee posting his league-best 40th double-double and seventh in a row against the Raptors with 29 points and 11 rebounds, the Warriors surrendered 19 offensive boards.
They can't afford that type of effort against Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who has team highs with 47 points and 22 boards against Golden State this season. Cousins finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and a career-best five blocks on Tuesday, but he also endured the worst shooting performance of his career (1 for 12).
Sixth-man Marcus Thornton, though, is enjoying his best shooting stretch of the season for the Kings, hitting 19 of 40 3s and averaging 26.2 points on 57.9 percent shooting over the last five games.
Golden State's Stephen Curry has been even better in his last five, making 26 of 48 3s and scoring 34.6 points per game. Curry missed the Kings' last visit - a 111-108 Warriors State victory on March 24 - with a sprained right ankle.
Sacramento, loser of eight of 10, last won three straight over Golden State during a 15-game run from Jan. 15, 2000-Nov. 16, 2003.
The Associated Press News Service
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