OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Jason Richardson and Nick Van Exel expect
to put up big numbers as the Golden State Warriors' starting
backcourt _ and they're just two parts of an equation that might
add up to more victories than anybody expected.
Richardson had 16 points and 10 rebounds in his first game back
from suspension, and Van Exel scored 12 points in his Warriors
debut, a 99-72 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
Erick Dampier had 11 points and 18 rebounds for Golden State,
which began a five-game homestand with an energizing victory
following the addition of two starters. Van Exel missed the first
three games of the season following minor knee surgery, while
Richardson was suspended for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
"We have a lot of veterans who have been around, who know how
to win," Van Exel said. "That's going to be our strength."
After the offseason departures of Antawn Jamison and Gilbert
Arenas, their top scorers and team leaders, nearly everyone
expected the Warriors to regress from the team that went a
surprising 38-44 last season.
Instead, Golden State has shown early signs of veteran savvy _
such as the tenacity to bury the struggling Hawks with stifling
defense in the second half.
"It's just a veteran team, a smart team," said Dampier, who
has four straight games of double figures in points and rebounds.
"It's a different feeling around here. This is the best team I've
been a part of, and I think we're going to show it on the court."
The Warriors led by only five midway through the third quarter,
but they made a 25-5 run into the fourth. Richardson's reverse dunk
on an alley-oop pass from Mike Dunleavy with 8:41 left was the
rally's highlight.
It was the Warriors' biggest victory since a 28-point win over
Cleveland last Jan. 15 _ and with Van Exel and Richardson back,
Golden State's only missing starter is injured forward Troy Murphy.
"We wanted to go out there and put them away," Richardson
said. "We know they're capable of coming back, but we played real
great team defense. That's one of the differences from last year's
team. Sometimes we struggled on defense."
Jason Terry had 13 points and six assists for Atlanta in his
return from a one-game suspension for throwing a flagrant elbow
last Saturday against Indiana, but the Hawks couldn't keep up in
their third straight loss to the Warriors.
At the start of a five-game West Coast road swing, Atlanta went
3-for-15 from the field and scored just eight points in the fourth
quarter, tying the franchise record for fewest points in the
While the Warriors seem to be fixing the problems that have kept
them out of the playoffs for nine years, Atlanta is off to another
lousy start with four losses in five games.
"It was a terrible exhibition of basketball," said center Theo
Ratliff, who had eight points and six rebounds. "We weren't
playing together. We were just jacking up shots and not really
playing defense, and we can't expect to play that way and be in the
game. That's why we got blown out like that."


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