OAKLAND, Calif. -- When the Golden State Warriors fell behind by 14 points after just nine minutes of a game that was critical to their playoff chances, coach Don Nelson let his team have it during a timeout.
"The last thing I want to do is start yelling and screaming too much," Nelson said. "That was an exception. I thought they needed it. We got that out of the way. I hope they didn't put it on TV. I was miked tonight, but I don't think they could have put that one on."
The national television audience might not have gotten Nelson's message, but his players sure did. They erased that deficit by the second quarter and rolled past the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers in the third quarter of a 111-95 victory Thursday night that bolstered their playoff chances.
"We were a little flat, but we found a way to win," said Stephen Jackson, who scored 14 of his 24 points in the decisive third quarter. "We got it going in the second half. We can't play like that on the road though. We have to be ready to play from the jump. We have some good teams coming up. I'm glad we got the kinks out tonight and hopefully we'll be ready against Denver. We will be ready."
The Warriors maintained a half-game lead over Denver for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and moved within a half-game of Dallas for seventh place. Golden State's next two games are against those teams, beginning with a trip to Denver on Saturday, then a home game the following night against Dallas.
"They're all critical," Nelson said. "This was the game at hand, so this was the most important game of the season. The next game will be the same and that's the way we're trying to approach it."
The Warriors caught a lucky break when Portland All-Star guard Brandon Roy stayed home to nurse a sore groin.
Golden State broke this game open with a dominant third quarter, where its aggressiveness on offense paid off with 20 free throw attempts in the quarter. The Warriors made 18 of them after not going to the line once in the first half. They also shot 9-for-13 from the field, turned the ball over only once and outscored the Blazers 40-20 to take a 91-72 lead into the fourth period.
"You've got to contain them, move your feet and force them to shoot over the top," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "They didn't run a lot of plays, but whoever got the ball penetrated. In situations like that you've got to contain them. We've just got to get better at guarding the ball."
The big third quarter allowed Nelson to rest star point guard Baron Davis for the entire fourth quarter in hopes of keeping him fresh for this weekend's big games. Davis scored just 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting after getting an IV before the game because of a recent illness. But with every game so crucial, Davis wasn't about to sit this one out.
"It took me a little bit to get my motor running," Davis said. "It was just a weird feeling. It was weird. I didn't really feel like I could do what I needed to do. I just wanted to try to make hustle plays tonight and try to have a good floor game."
The Blazers never threatened after that and the Warriors avoided losing back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 2-4.
Monta Ellis added 18 points and 10 rebounds for Golden State, which has alternated wins and losses for the last nine games. The Warriors might need to do better than that over the final 11 games to make the playoffs.
Steve Blake led Portland with 22 points. Jarrett Jack added 19 and LaMarcus Aldridge had 17. The Blazers (38-35) are seven games behind Golden State in the playoff race and now have their hopes set on posting their first winning season in five years.
"If the eighth seed is this good, imagine how good the No. 1 or No. 2 seed is," Aldridge said. "So it shows us to be in that playoff race and to be in the playoffs, you've got to be a good team that executes down the stretch."
- Roy is expected to miss at least four games with the groin injury.
- Warriors swingman Mickael Pietrus missed his third straight game with a strained right groin. He will not make the trip to Denver on Saturday, but could play at home Sunday against Dallas.
- The Warriors have won 31 straight games, including the playoffs, when holding their opponent under 100 points.