As teams approach the midway point of the NBA season, the Golden State Warriors are where most expected them to be in the standings.
The Warriors are 32-6, the NBA’s best record, after Sunday night’s 117-106 victory over the Kings at Golden 1 Center.
Sacramento is among five teams within two games of each other for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Kings are ninth in the West at 15-22, percentage points behind Portland for eighth.
The No. 1 and No. 8 seeds in each conference will meet in the first round of the playoffs.
“Some of these teams in the preseason may not have been thought of being in the eighth spot,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “It’s exciting.”
Denver, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers also are within reach of the eighth spot in the West.
Many predicted Minnesota would contend for eighth, but the Timberwolves’ youth has led to losses in close games. Dallas has been dogged by injuries, as was New Orleans.
Portland, by most accounts, has underachieved this season after making the playoffs last season.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr isn’t concerned with the bottom of the playoff standings at this point.
“I really haven’t paid much attention to it,” Kerr said. “That was my old job (as president and general manager of the Phoenix Suns), analyzing the rest of the league. My new job is analyzing our team and the next opponent. It’s the first time we’ve seen Sacramento (this season).”
Joerger said there’s no particular reason a team has been unable to separate itself in the quest for the final playoff spot in the West.
“It’s just the ebb and flow of the schedule in the season,” Joerger said.
Notes – Sunday marked the Warriors’ first visit to Golden 1 Center.
Kerr, like most visiting coaches, finds the visitors’ setup much more accommodating.
“The coach’s office is huge, which is fantastic,” Kerr said. “ ... I think the new arenas are accommodating to the larger coaching staffs that we have. (Sleep Train Arena) didn’t even have a coaching office – players and coaches, all in one big closet.”
Kerr also was intrigued by the new scoreboard and wondered if it has a feature similar to Cleveland’s that keeps track of the score differential (it does not).
“That’s always good if you can’t do math,” he said with a smile.
▪ Joerger tried a new starting lineup Sunday.
After using a small backcourt of Ty Lawson and Darren Collison in Friday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Joerger replaced Lawson with Garrett Temple. Also, Anthony Tolliver started in place of Matt Barnes.
The Kings have struggled to find the right mix to combat slow starts. Temple has been one of the more consistent Kings this season and has the size (6-foot-6) to match up with Warriors All-Star Klay Thompson (6-7).
Having Rudy Gay back from injury allows Joerger to play smaller against opponents like the Warriors or Clippers, who were without power forward Blake Griffin.
Joerger joked about never playing Gay, a small forward, at power forward.
“I promised him I’d never call him a four,” Joerger said. “It could be (6-foot) Darren Collison playing four.”