Golden State holds on to eighth playoff spot in the West

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jason Richardson had 14 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and the Golden State Warriors maintained their hold on the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 106-86 win over Minnesota on Friday night.

Monta Ellis added 24 points and six assists off the bench, while Andris Biedrins had nine points and 12 rebounds for Golden State, which continued its resurgence with a healthy Baron Davis in the lineup.

Davis, who has been bothered throughout the season by a knee injury, had 15 points and four assists in 23 minutes before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Since his return to the lineup on March 5 following a 13-game absence, the Warriors are 5-1. The lone loss came to Portland last Sunday when Davis did not play due to coach's decision.

Kevin Garnett had 19 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost to the Warriors for only the fourth time in the teams' last 11 meetings.

At 31-36, Golden State remains percentage points ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (30-35) for the eighth playoff spot in the West.

The Warriors helped their postseason chances by dominating Minnesota at both ends of the floor. Golden State led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter and forced the Timberwolves into 25 turnovers for the game.

Stephen Jackson had nine of his 15 points in the third for Golden State, including a pair of 3-pointers, but it was Ellis who brought the crowd at Oracle Arena to its feet when he took an over-the-shoulder pass from Richardson and dunked it.

Minnesota is one of the teams vying for the eighth playoff spot, but the Timberwolves are starting to fade after suffering their ninth straight loss on the road.

Minnesota is just 3-9 since the All-Star break. Randy Wittman replaced Dwane Casey as coach on Jan. 23 after 40 games, but hasn't been able to spark the Timberwolves.

Wittman's job security has become an issue in the Twin Cities, but owner Glen Taylor recently voiced his support for the coach, as did Kevin Garnett.

Wittman downplayed talk of his future before the loss to Golden State.

"It's nice that you have players that feel that way, but like I've stated before, I'm just worried about tonight and continuing this thing through the last 18 or 19 games we've got," Wittman said. "I've got great confidence in who I am, and doing the job. That's what I'm going to stay focused on."

Minnesota didn't have much focus early.

The Timberwolves missed their first seven shots, went 5-for-18 in the first quarter and trailed 56-43 at halftime.

Garnett epitomized Minnesota's offensive struggles. The Timberwolves leading scorer had 10 points and six rebounds in the first half, but missed seven of his first 11 shots. He finished 6-for-15 from the floor.

The Warriors also struggled offensively at times early, but got big production off the bench from Ellis and Mickael Pietrus, who combined for 27 points in the first half. Ellis scored eight points in the final 4 minutes of the first quarter and had 14 in the half, while Pietrus had 13, including a pair of 3-pointers during a 15-5 run in the second quarter that put Golden State ahead for good.

Game notes
Minnesota guard Trenton Hassell was scoreless points in 11 minutes in his return to the lineup after a four-game absence due to a left ankle sprain. Hassell will be re-evaluated Saturday, but the Wolves will continue to ease him back into the rotation. "We'll see how he does, see how he feels until we know for sure that he's not got any lingering effects," Wittman said. ... The two teams meet again in Oakland on April 15.