OAKLAND(AP) — One goal down, still more to go.
That’s the message the Golden State Warriors are giving after winning the Pacific Division for the first time in 39 years. Now they’re trying to secure the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs for the first time since the defending champion Warriors did it in the 1975-76 season.
“We all know the main goal, but baby steps,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “You have to reach certain milestones to get to the main goal, and this is one of them.”
After beating the short-handed Trail Blazers 122-108 on Tuesday night in Portland, players paraded around the visiting locker room with gold shirts that read: “Pacific Claimed.” They posted photos of the subdued celebration — no champagne in this one — all over social media but never let the party get out of hand.
“It was a good celebration relative to our accomplishment,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “But also with the idea that there’s more to come.”
Assistant coach Alvin Gentry encouraged the team to savor the achievement. The longtime NBA coach reminded everybody that historic accomplishments should never be overlooked.
“As Alvin said, ‘If you haven’t done something for 39 years, you’d better celebrate it when you finally do,’” Kerr said. “It’s a great moment for our franchise. It kind of shows how far we’ve come the last few years and all the work so many people have put in.”
Just three years ago, the Warriors had made the playoffs only once since 1994. Now they’re headed to the postseason for the third consecutive year.
Golden State has gone from 47 wins to 51 wins under former coach Mark Jackson to 58 wins and counting under Kerr — and there are still 11 games left.
“We can’t rest on it,” center Andrew Bogut said.
The Warriors are set to shatter the franchise record of 59 wins set in 1975-76, the year after they won their only championship in the Bay Area. They can match that mark at Memphis on Friday and give themselves a chance to break it at Milwaukee on Saturday.
“It’s a nice little checkpoint, and hopefully we can finish the season strong, the same way we’ve been playing and keep our focus about what we’re doing even though we’ve wrapped up the division,” said Warriors point guard and MVP candidate Stephen Curry. “We want to wrap up that one seed and just keep looking for the next goal.”
Finishing with the league’s best record is starting to feel more like a matter of when — not if — it happens.
Golden State (58-13) began Wednesday with an eight-game lead over the Grizzlies (50-21) in the West. East-leading Atlanta (53-17) was four back in the loss column.
The Warriors would also win the tiebreaker with the Hawks should they finish with the same record. The teams split the regular-season series, so the tiebreaker would come down to each team’s record against the other’s conference. The Warriors are 24-5 against the East and can finish no worse than 24-6. Atlanta is 21-8 against the West.
Homecourt advantage would be huge for the Warriors. They’re a league-best 34-2 at rowdy Oracle Arena, where sellout crowds are rocking road teams nightly.
These Warriors also know how important home court can be in the playoffs. They were eliminated by the Los Angeles Clippers in a decisive Game 7 at Staples Center last year.
And while they’re relishing all these regular-season accolades right now, they know what happens in April, May and June is what matters most.
“The goal is still the goal,” Green said, “so the focus must remain the same.”