About a month ago, the Golden State Warriors were mainly concerned just with making the playoffs. With other teams struggling, they have a new goal.
Don Nelson’s surprising team now is shooting for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. A fourth place overall finish in the West will do it.
The Warriors slipped into a tie with Seattle for that coveted position by defeating Charlotte, 124-117, Sunday at Oakland.
Although their best scorer, Kelly Tripucka, is in the hospital with a possible kidney stone, the expansion Hornets proved a tough opponent. It wasn’t until well into the second half when Nelson went to his little group that the Hornets wilted.
Ralph Sampson, 7-foot-4, started for one of the few times since the Warriors started winning. But, when the Hornets kept battling back, Nelson went to the lineup that has Larry Smith, the big man at 6-8 and averages just under 6-6.
Three bombs by Rod Higgins in a short space of time helped the “shorties” build an 86-84 lead to 111-100 halfway through the last quarter.
“Sometimes when you think you should have an easy victory it doesn’t work out that well,” Nelson said. “We were having problems until we went to the smaller group.”
That group is headed by Chris Mullin, 6-7 and Terry Teagle, 6-5 or Higgins, 6-7, at forwards, Smith at center, and Mitch Richmond, 6-5 and Winston Garland, 6-2, at guards. Mullin had 28 points, Richmond 23.
Rambis led the Hornets with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
The Warriors, who were 16-48 after 84 games last season, improved their record to 37-17.
New York 128, Milwaukee 104--The Bucks looked weary after beating Detroit Saturday night and the Knicks started hitting bombs again at New York.
The Knicks, who have already broken the NBA record for three-point baskets in a season, had made only five of 30 in three previous games. But Trent Tucker and Gerald Wilkins had five between them in the first half.
The five, three by Tucker, were in a 28-8 run that started late in the first period and gave the Knicks a 50-32 lead.
It was a costly loss for the Bucks. Paul Pressey sprained his ankle late in the first half and never returned.
Cleveland 101, New Jersey 91--Ron Harper scored eight of his 17 points in a 22-5 spurt in the third quarter at East Rutherford, N.J., and the Cavaliers went on to hand the fading Nets their seventh loss in a row.