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O'Neal, Green, Blake key for Warriors' playoff run

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Without center Andrew Bogut (shoulder) and forward David Lee (stomach flu) available, the Golden State Warriors improved to 34-22 in Saturday's 93-86 home win over the Brooklyn Nets.


In their best games of the season, 35-year-old center Jermaine O'Neal and sophomore forward Draymond Green replaced them on the front line.

O'Neal dominated the paint in a throwback performance finishing with 23 points and 13 rebounds, both season-highs, while unleashing a mix-tape of dunks.

"I haven't seen J.O. play like that since Indiana," said Nets' center Kevin Garnett. "I'm glad he found the Fountain of Youth."

Green, who was involved in a pre-game car accident, matched-up with Paul Pierce and totaled a career-high 18 points, 10 boards for his second career double-double while adding three steals and two assists.

Meanwhile point guard Steve Blake, who was acquired from the Lakers earlier this week, chipped in six points, five assists and one steal in 16 minutes backing up All-Star Stephen Curry.

And while Bogut and Lee will soon resume their starting roles, the emergence of the O'Neal-Green-Blake trio is the biggest on-court improvement for the Warriors since the All-Star break.

A locker room leader, O'Neal missed 26 games due to wrist surgery, but his availability enables head coach Mark Jackson to spell the often-injured Bogut with another true center who notably has the most playoff experience on the roster with 90 playoff games including 69 starts. His season averages 6.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per 12.20 minutes are crucial and if healthy he will continue rise to the occasion.

Green is an emotional player in a good way with a veteran voice. Averaging 5.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists per 11.99 minutes he's improved in every single stat category and has been the most consistent member of Golden State's 2012 rookie class with Harrison Barnes regressing while Festus Ezeli (knee surgery) is out and Ognjen Kuzmic is on assignment in Santa Cruz. He consistently finds ways to win that don't show up on the stat sheet.

Per Kobe Bryant, Blake is a "psycho competitor." He's the backup point the Warriors' have been seeking all year - no offense to Jordan Crawford who will continue to be counted on - but after Toney Douglas, Kent Bazemore and Nemanja Nedovic failed to step up, having Blake assures Jackson that a veteran point guard is facilitating the second unit which should benefit Barnes, Crawford and Marreese Speights. Blake should settle in with the team during this road trip.

Looking at the O'Neal-Green-Blake trio offers some insight into what the bench rotation may look like in Golden State's push for the postseason.


Follow @drewmorita on Twitter for full coverage of the Golden State Warriors.


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