Warriors focus on NBA playoff push vs. All-Star break – NBC Sports Bay Area and CA

SAN FRANCISCO — While the Warriors practiced at Chase Center on Wednesday, coach Steve Kerr took a moment and posted the Western Conference standings for his players to see.

One of the best teams in the NBA with an 8-2 mark over their last 10 games before the All-Star break, Kerr wanted to make sure his team was fully aware of the scenario it faces as Golden State prepares for what will hopefully be a strong second-half push into the playoffs.

“Just to make sure they know what's at stake,” Kerr said. “We've been in good shape, but we've got to carry that forward. “There's no reason why we can't keep winning and do what we did a year ago, which was move up the standings and put ourselves in a position for the play-offs.”

The Warriors currently reside at 10y The position in the West is 1.5 games behind the Utah Jazz and 1.5 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers. Golden State has an opportunity to close this gap further when it hosts Los Angeles on Thursday. The good news for the Warriors is that LeBron James has already been ruled out with an ankle injury.

Just getting into the postseason would be a huge accomplishment for the Warriors (27-26), considering all the ups and downs they've experienced during the first half of the 2023-24 NBA season.

But just qualifying for the playoffs is not enough. While many have pegged them as NBA championship contenders, the Warriors have loftier goals and are confident they can achieve them.

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“We have a lot of confidence that we can beat any team regardless of seed in a seven-game series,” said rookie standout Brandyn Podzemski. “We're not really focused on the number 7 [seed]8, 9, 10. We're looking at #6 and #5.

Earlier in the season, it seemed like the Warriors were a long way from making the playoffs. Right now, Golden State looks like a team capable of doing serious damage and making a deep run in the postseason.

If there is any doubt, the Warriors can rely on the lessons they learned from the 2022-23 season. After scuffling for most of the season, Golden State finished the regular season going 15-8 over its final 23 games to secure sixth place in the West.

This year, they have 29 games remaining before the playoffs, and Kerr is trying to stress the importance of each one.

“The idea is to put ourselves in the best possible position, whatever that means,” Kerr said. “There's a lot of great teams out west. Everyone's kind of grouped together. But let's put our best foot forward and see where it takes us.”

“I like where we are. The guys' spirit is in the right place. I think we can make a push this way.”

If they can follow the pattern they established right before the All-Star break, the Warriors could easily make a serious push to reach the postseason.

In the 10 games leading up to halftime, Golden State had the fourth-best offensive rating in the entire NBA at 120.9, not too far behind the Atlanta Hawks, who had the league-leading mark of 121.7 during that span.

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Defensively, the Warriors' 111.2 rating over the same period was sixth-best in the NBA.

“We're playing at a very high level,” Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “We just have to keep doing it. As we add more pieces, we're going to have a very deep team. That's what the coach said. He used to say: When the game is on the line, I don't know who's going to be there. We have a lot of pieces on the floor.”

“So we all have to buy in, and if we pitch in, we can win the championship. I think that's on everyone's mind, and I think that's what everyone is trying to do.”

The Warriors are definitely getting better with time.

Chris Paul, who missed Golden State's previous 18 games due to a fracture in his left hand that required surgery, was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. Kerr said Ball will not play against the Lakers on Thursday, but the Warriors' second unit announcer will likely return soon.

Gary Payton II (illness) could also be back soon.

That alone should be encouraging for fans and the Warriors' coaching staff, which has had to mix and match lineups and rotations all season.

“He's getting close,” Kerr said of Paul, who last played in a game on Jan. 5. “He feels good. I played a lot during the All-Star break. The next step is for the coaching staff to get a feel for where he's at in terms of conditioning and make sure everything is ready to get back out there.”

Regardless of who is playing and who is not, the message for the Warriors as they prepare for the post-break portion of their schedule is the same: The margin for error they had earlier in the season is getting smaller with each game.

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“The later you move in and the more ground you have to cover later in the season, the more difficult it becomes,” Podzemski said. “Getting off to a good start early is very important just for that. It's a great opportunity to play well against some top teams.”

If the Warriors can do that, they should find themselves in a much better position if Kerr feels the need to point in the standings again.

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