SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors on Tuesday night arrived at their desired destination.
The long journey to sixth place in the Western Conference concluded with a 123-105 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at Chase Center that puts Golden State (32-30) two games above .500 for the first time since Feb. 6.
Even better than sixth place? Fifth place, which is where the Warriors finished the night after the Los Angeles Clippers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves a few minutes later.
Jordan Poole scored a game-high 29 points, while Klay Thompson tossed in 23 and Donte DiVincenzo added 21 as the Warriors outscored Portland 75-40 in the second half.
The Warriors are targeting sixth place because it would allow them to avoid the Play-in Tournament, in which one loss could send them home before the playoffs begin.
The goal now? To stay at least that high in the standings.
Here are three observations from a win in which the Warriors wiped out a 23-point deficit:
The great Warriors teams of yore were known for many things, one of which was using the third quarter to extinguish annoying deficits or, in case they had a lead, bury their opponent.
The mediocre Warriors of this season haven’t done much of that – until this game.
Trailing 65-48 at the half, the Warriors summoned a degree defensive intensity previously lacking and rolled to a 39-17 advantage to take an 87-82 lead into the fourth quarter.
Golden State limited Portland to 29.2-percent shooting (7-of-24) while outrebounding the Blazers 13-8 and forcing five turnovers, which led directly to seven points.
Thompson, who scored seven first-half points on 1-of-10 shooting, recovered with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting to join Poole in leading the offense and electrifying the building.
It was, on this night, like old times.
JP’s welcome outburst
Poole came out of the All-Star break searching in vain for his best offense. He shot 28.3 percent from the field, including 21.7 percent beyond the arc. His struggles prompted coach Steve Kerr to pull the young star aside for a chat on Monday.
After a relatively decent first half, JP finally found his treasure in a scintillating third quarter, scoring 12 points in nine minutes – including eight consecutive points in the middle of the quarter to trim the deficit from 11 to four.
Suddenly, there was swag in his bag. After a 12-point first half, Poole produced 17 after intermission.
This is the JP the Warriors need, certainly in the absence of Stephen Curry. They’ll surely welcome such a performance even after Curry returns, which is expected in a matter of days.
Another drowsy start
Falling behind 5-0 in the first two minutes doesn’t mean much unless it fits a pattern. Well, it led to 31-18 nine minutes after tipoff and 41-27 at the end of the first quarter.
Welcome another listless first quarter by the defending champs. Portland followed Damian Lillard’s 15 first-quarter points to create some space and force the Warriors to play from behind.
They’re used to it. This represents the seventh time in nine games that Golden State failed to take a lead into the second quarter. They were minus-48 in the opening quarter of those nine games.
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The 14-point deficit was their largest in any first quarter at home this season – and it came against a Western Conference opponent that is, like the Warriors, fighting to climb into the playoffs.
A bad look by any measure.