Warriors in odd position -- 1st - SF Chronicle

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» Thu Dec 01, 2005 8:09 am
Warriors in odd position -- 1st

Janny Hu, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, December 1, 2005

As far as rivalries go, the Warriors and Kings have lacked some serious punch.

The Kings were awful their first years in the Pacific Division while the Warriors rode Run TMC to fame. Both teams were awful through much of the 1990s. Then the Kings got better and the Warriors stayed put.

The Northern California neighbors have never been good simultaneously. Until this year, that is.

Golden State took the opener of the season series 113-106 Wednesday in a win players hoped would signal the beginnings of a real rivalry. Though the Warriors led almost wire-to-wire, they had to withstand a late Kings rally when Mike Bibby cut their lead to six points on a 3-pointer with 3:15 to play.

Baron Davis iced the victory with a 3-pointer over Brad Miller, and on the last play of the game, he simply ran out the clock to push the Warriors' season-high win streak to four games.

And believe it or not, Golden State is now in a virtual tie with the Clippers for first place in the Pacific -- a spot the Warriors haven't resided in since March of 1992.

Jason Richardson continued to stomp the Kings by leading all scorers with 33 points. He posted 15 of those in the first quarter to set a Warriors' season-high for most points in a period.

Richardson hit seven of his first nine shot attempts, including an alley-oop dunk from Mike Dunleavy that gave Golden State a quick 13-8 lead. In three outings against the Kings last season, he averaged 34 points per game. (He missed the fourth matchup due to personal reasons).

"He can do it all," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "He can post-up, he can take it to the basket, he gets in the open court. And having Baron Davis out there with him, it's a huge difference."

Davis entered the second in the NBA in assists per game at 8.9 - a number the Warriors pumped up particularly in light on his poor shooting from behind the 3-point line. But he managed to fill up both statistical columns Wednesday. Davis went 6-of-12 from long distance and finished with 25 points and 16 assists.

The Warriors led 57-50 at the half. After Davis drove in for a layup and Derek Fisher followed with a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 75-63 lead with 4:45 left in the third, the crowd of 19,279 - about a few hundred short of a sellout - finally rose to its feet.

A minute later, Davis found Richardson for a jumper to push the lead to 14, Golden State's biggest of the game. And if the Warriors needed any more momentum, Davis again delivered at the end of the quarter.

He sent Jason Hart tumbling out of bounds on Kings' turnover with 1.2 seconds left, then stood over him and cut loose. With a Hulk Hogan-like demeanor, Davis flexed his muscles and yelled three times.

Can you say rivalry?

Wednesday marked the first time the Warriors faced the Kings with a better overall record in almost a decade. They were 28-33 when Sacramento was 25-33 on March 10, 1996.

Both teams would rather forget those less-than-impressive records, and while coaches Mike Montgomery and Adelman had different input on what best makes a rivalry, they both agreed that having two good teams is among the requirements.

Said Montgomery: "It would take teams competing for championships consistently to be a rivalry."

Said Adelman: "Rivalries come from playing each other in the season and in the playoffs."

It could finally happen this season.

The Kings have rebounded nicely from a 1-4 start, which included an embarrassing blowout loss to the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets in their season opener. Since then, Sacramento has taken advantage of a soft schedule to reorganize its offense and bring a three-game winning streak into the Arena in Oakland.

Bibby has been on fire, leading the Kings with 25 points in those victories over New Jersey, Toronto and Charlotte. Sacramento scored at least 106 points and made at least six 3's in during the stretch.

The Warriors have been streaking as well, entering Wednesday's game on a season-best, three-game roll. And if the records allow for a postseason matchup, then Montgomery's final requirement for good rivalries will follow suit, judging by Wednesday's crowd.

"It's the fans that make the rivalries," he said. "They're the ones that can't stand it, that someone else might be better."

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