OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — David Lee had 23 points and 16 rebounds, Stephen Curry added 20 points and nine assists, and the Golden State Warriors shook off a slow start to ease past the New Orleans Hornets 98-88 on Wednesday night.
Jarrett Jack finished with 19 points and eight assists off the bench against his former team to keep the Warriors in sixth place in the Western Conference playoff chase. Golden State (43-32) remained one game ahead of Houston (42-33), which won 112-102 at Sacramento.
The Rockets own the tiebreaker after going 3-1 against the Warriors this season.
Eric Gordon scored 21 points and Robin Lopez had 17 points and seven rebounds for the Hornets, who were swept 4-0 by the Warriors this season. New Orleans led by 11 points in the second quarter before the Warriors surged ahead for good.
The playoff chase has been evident all over Golden State’s faces — literally.
Center Andrew Bogut convinced his teammates not to shave until the final regular-season game at Portland on April 17 as a way of bonding during the playoff push. Golden State closed the homestand 4-1.
With shadows and scruff starting to show, the playoff picture also is becoming clearer.
The Warriors are four games in front of the eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers and 4 1/2 games ahead of the Utah Jazz. Any combination of three Warriors wins or losses by the Jazz would clinch Golden State’s first playoff berth since 2007.
After not playing since Saturday, Golden State hardly looked like a team headed to the postseason at the start.
At one point in the first quarter, the Warriors missed 10 consecutive shots from the floor during a scoreless stretch of more than 4 minutes. The Hornets took a 30-19 lead early in the second quarter behind a balanced backcourt of Gordon and Greivis Vasquez, though they missed a chance to create more separation when they had the chance.
Once the Warriors found their rhythm, New Orleans struggled to slow them down.
Curry made a pair of 3-pointers and threw a deep pass to Lee for a runaway dunk to highlight a 25-6 surge that gave Golden State a 44-36 lead. Curry added another from beyond the arc to put the Warriors up 51-42 at the break.
Despite a sloppy shooting performance at the outset, the Warriors outshot the Hornets 46 to 38 percent in the first half. But New Orleans started strong — and Golden State didn’t — again in the second half.
Lopez’s short jumper in the lane sliced Golden State’s lead to 69-68 late in the third quarter. Jack answered with a 3-pointer on the other end, and Curry hit another at the start of the fourth quarter to put the Warriors up seven and send a 28th straight sellout crowd announced at 19,596 into a frenzy.
Gordon tried to will New Orleans back, but had little help from a young team still trying to find its way. He made 10 of 11 free throws but shot just 5 of 17 from the field.
The Hornets fell behind by 16 points in the final period before both sides sent in reserves.
NOTES: Hornets reserve F Lance Thomas sat out with a sore foot. Coach Monty Williams said Thomas hurt his foot in a workout Monday and is day to day. … The Warriors have swept the season series against the Hornets four times in 26 years. … A moment of silence was held before the game for Greg Willard, a longtime referee who died of pancreatic cancer Monday at age 54.
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