Warriors

Sharks look to clinch Pacific title vs. L.A.

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Sharks look to clinch Pacific title vs. L.A.

April 4, 2011SHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEOLOS ANGELES (45-27-6) vs.SHARKS (46-23-9)

Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.

SAN JOSE (AP) -- A 7-0-1 surge has left the Sharks needing one win to clinch the Pacific Division for the fourth consecutive season.

The only loss in that span came against the Los Angeles Kings, who find themselves on the verge of back-to-back postseason appearances thanks to a impressive stretch of their own.

The Sharks, winners of five in a row at home, can avenge that defeat and secure the Pacific title when they host the Kings on Monday night.

San Jose (46-23-9) suffered its lone defeat in the past eight games March 24, falling 4-3 in a shootout at Los Angeles. The Sharks won their third in a row since that loss Saturday, overcoming a 2-0 deficit after one period to beat Anaheim 4-2.

NOTEBOOK: Nichol could return for Sharks this week

"We were talking about how we worked so hard as of late to get back on top of our division," forward Devin Setoguchi said after recording a goal and two assists. "Just to let it slip like that and have a bad period wasn't something we wanted to do. We worked so hard and it's so easy to fall right back into a hole."

Left wing Patrick Marleau had two goals and an assist to give him 10 goals and seven assists in his last nine games.

The Sharks, who have outscored opponents 14-3 during their three-game run, will end the Pacific race with any kind of victory Monday. San Jose is also focused on the battle with Detroit for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference -- and making sure it doesn't lose home-ice advantage in the first round.

"We're in a race for second," Setoguchi told the Sharks' official website. "We can't catch Vancouver. We're not going to just sit back. L.A. and Phoenix are a few points back. We have a goal to get second and try to get home ice."

The Kings (45-27-6) are in a fourth-place tie with the Coyotes, with both teams five points behind the Sharks. Los Angeles, though has a game in hand over Phoenix.

The Kings are also surging as the season winds down, defeating Dallas 3-1 on Saturday for their fifth win in six games. Los Angeles has gone 9-2-1 in its last 12, and with another victory Monday can secure its second straight playoff berth.

"We just found a way to do it again," forward Jarret Stoll said. "We found a way to get the points, and that's all that matters."

Captain Dustin Brown, who scored twice against the Sharks last month, had a goal Saturday and has five goals and two assists in his last five games. Defenseman Matt Greene and right wing Wayne Simmonds also scored against the Stars.

Los Angeles has been rolling despite the absences of Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, neither of whom are expected to return before the playoffs.

"We've been seeing that guys are stepping up, and we've been playing well without them," Simmonds said of Kopitar and Williams, who are tops on the team with 73 and 57 points, respectively. "It would be nice to have them back, but we can't worry about that right now."

Jonathan Quick made 24 saves Saturday and has gone 4-1-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average in his last five starts. Quick had posted a 1.81 GAA in winning five of six on the road prior to allowing three goals in a 3-1 loss at Vancouver on Thursday.

Quick is 2-0-1 with a 0.97 GAA in his career at HP Pavilion, where he stopped 24 shots in a 4-0 win Dec. 27.

San Jose counterpart Antti Niemi is also thriving, earning his 20th win in 27 starts by making 20 saves against the Ducks. Niemi is 4-1-2 with a 1.81 GAA versus the Kings.

The Sharks, 2-1-2 against the Kings, haven't lost the season series since 2001-02.

Captain Joe Thornton, three points away from reaching 1,000 for his career, saw his season high-tying five-game point streak end Saturday. He has managed one assist in his last six matchups with Los Angeles.

Gameday: Curry out for payback against Conley, new-look Grizzlies

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Gameday: Curry out for payback against Conley, new-look Grizzlies

When the Warriors set foot in FedEx Forum on Saturday, they’ll find a very different atmosphere as well as a barely recognizable team of Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grindhouse is not the same. Zach Randolph and Vince Carter have left the building. So, too, has the “Grindfather” himself, Tony Allen.

So in their only trip to Memphis this season, the Warriors will focus mostly on point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol, the remaining core members of the team that reached the playoffs in each of the last seven seasons.

The Warriors (1-1) will be playing for the second night in a row, while the Grizzlies (1-0) have not played since their season opener Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.

BETTING LINE:
Warriors by 8.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Stephen Curry vs. Mike Conley: Curry has a long memory, and he will remember not only that the Warriors last season lost twice to the Grizzlies but also that Conley’s 27 points and clutch play offset Curry’s 40 points and led Memphis to an overtime win in Oakland. It won’t matter to Curry that the Warriors posted double-digit wins over the Grizzlies in the last two meetings last season. He may want to take over.

INJURY LIST:
Warriors: F Omri Casspi (L ankle sprain) is listed as questionable.

Grizzlies: F JaMychal Green (L ankle sprain), G Ben McLemore (R foot surgery) and G/F Wayne Selden Jr. (R quad injury) are listed as out.

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:
The Warriors have won five of the last seven in Memphis and 10 of the last 13 meetings overall.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
BREEZE OR WHEEZE: Coach Steve Kerr has expressed some concern about the team’s conditioning level. On the second night of their first back-to-back set -- with the Warriors arriving at the hotel at 2:30 a.m. -- it could provide a glimpse of their progress. Kerr said he would consider resting one or two players. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, both coming off injuries, would seem logical candidates.

GEORGIA VS. SPAIN: The Republic of Georgia’s Zaza Pachulia and Spain’s Marc Gasol know each other well, having spent years battling internationally and in the NBA. There will be no surprises, but Pachulia will have to avoid foul trouble to remain a part of his team’s defensive rotation against one of the league’s best big men.

HOT KLAY: Klay Thompson is off to a torrid start, shooting 11-of-18 from beyond the arc through the first two games. And now he won’t have to worry about Allen, who relished in opportunities to defend the Warriors All-Star. Memphis replaced Allen with Andrew Harrison, who is not in the Grindfather’s class as a defender.

Gameday: Big underdogs, Kings face Nuggets looking for second straight win

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Gameday: Big underdogs, Kings face Nuggets looking for second straight win

With a win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night, the Sacramento Kings are feeling good heading into their first back-to-back on Saturday. They’ll face a Denver Nuggets team that lost their season opener to the Utah Jazz and is looking for their first victory of the season.

The combination of George Hill and De’Aaron Fox at the point guard position was too much for Dallas to handle on Friday. Hill poured in 21 points, including two huge shots down the stretch and Fox came away with his first 10-assist game of his career.

Denver added veteran Paul Millsap in the offseason to match with rising star Nikola Jokic. Jokic struggled in the opener, but still managed to post seven points, eight assists and 12 rebounds. The Kings will have their hands full trying to slow the 7-footer.  

OPENING LINE:
Nuggets by 11

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Nikola Jokic -- Cauley-Stein has posted back-to-back double-doubles to start the season and comes in averaging 15.5 points, 10.5 rebound and two blocks in 29 minutes per game. Jokic is one of the more versatile bigs in the game. He picks and chooses his spots to score, but his passing ability makes him a dangerous player.

WHERE THEY STAND:
Kings: 1-1

Nuggets: 0-1

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: SG Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle sprain) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out

Nuggets: No injuries to report

SERIES HISTORY:
These two teams split the season series last year and hold an identical 86-86 record against each other all-time. The Kings lead the Nuggets 65-63 during the Sacramento-era.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
MORE TIME FOR FOX - The Kings speedy young guard is showing that he’s ready to carry more of the load. In his first game, he posted 14 points and five assists. In Game Two, he set up his teammates for a team-high 10 assists while adding nine points and six rebounds. He’s averaged 25 minutes a game in the first two, but his play is already commanding more.

GIVING BUDDY SOME LOVE - Lost in the shuffle of the team’s first win was an nice all-around performance from Buddy Hield. The second-year guard was one of eight Kings to grab five rebounds or more against the Mavs, but Hield’s late board in traffic was probably the play of the night. If he can post more 13 point, six rebound, three assist games early in the season, he’ll find himself on the court more often than not.

MORE FROM SKAL NEEDED - Skal Labissiere has all the potential in the world, but he’s off to a quiet start through two contests. He needs to be more aggressive calling for the ball and continue to hit the glass hard. He’s averaging 10 points and 7.5 rebounds in 23 minutes per game, but one of those came with Zach Randolph on the shelf. He’ll need to earn minutes like everyone else on this team.

QUOTE:
“My coach has that much confidence in me, a 19-year-old kid to stay on the floor in crunch time, and when he has that confidence in me, my confidence goes up that much more.” -De’Aaron Fox on coach Dave Joerger sticking with him down the stretch in the Kings’ first win.