Still Believe?

The Golden State Warriors saw their improbable playoff run come to an end against Utah last spring. The Jazz's own surprising postseason surge ended one round later.

These teams begin their quests to improve on those performances Tuesday night when they open the 2007-08 season at Oracle Arena.

Oddsmakers from have made Golden State -3 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 194 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Utah +3 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The Warriors used a 9-1 run to finish 2006-07 with a 42-40 record, good enough to claim the eighth seed in the Western Conference and halt a league-high 12-year playoff drought.

They followed that up by beating Dallas - the team with the best record in the NBA - in six games, becoming the first No. 8 seed to win a first-round playoff series in the best-of-seven format.

The magical run ended in the conference semifinals against Utah, which took the series in five games.

The Jazz, who won the Northwest Division title with a 51-31 mark to secure the fourth seed, had their best season in nine years come to an end when they were eliminated in the West finals in five games by eventual NBA champion San Antonio.

"A lot of us grew up. A lot of us realized how good our offense could be, how good our defense could be," said Carlos Boozer, who was one of six Utah players that made their postseason debut last season. "I think we realized the capability of this team and how we can come together."

Boozer, who missed 80 total games over two injury-filled seasons from 2004-06, was a key part of the Jazz's revival, leading them with career-high averages of 20.9 points and 11.7 rebounds in 74 contests. The forward-center averaged 24.2 points and 14.0 rebounds in the five-game playoff series with Golden State before finishing the postseason as the team's leader with 23.5 points and 12.2 boards in 17 contests.

Third-year guard Deron Williams also had a breakout season in 2006-07, averaging 16.2 points and 9.3 assists, ranking only behind Phoenix's Steve Nash (11.6). Williams, the third overall selection in the 2005 draft, upped his scoring in the playoffs to 19.2 while still averaging 8.6 assists in 17 games.

The Jazz hope Williams can continue to develop after the team lost Derek Fisher, who asked to be released from his contract because of his 1-year-old daughter's treatment for cancer. Utah agreed and Fisher returned to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Andrei Kirilenko didn't have the same luck with his request as the disgruntled forward returns to Utah after averaging a career-low 8.3 points in 70 games last season - a drop of seven points per game. The Russian forward fell out of favor with coach Jerry Sloan, who is entering his 20th season with the Jazz.

"I'm going to coexist. That's my job," Sloan said. "Some people don't always see it the way they'd like to see it, but my job is to try to help a player become a better player. If he has problems, I want to try to work through those problems."

Kirilenko is the highest-paid player on the Jazz and still has four years remaining on the $86 million contract extension he signed in 2004. Just after leading Russia to the European championship in September, Kirilenko said he wanted the Jazz to trade or release him.

"I've already said everything. All I can do right now is concentrate on basketball," said Kirilenko, who scored 16.2 points in five playoff games against the Warriors.

Golden State will be without Stephen Jackson, who will miss the first seven games while serving a league-imposed suspension for pleading guilty to a felony charge of criminal recklessness after firing a gun into the air at an Indianapolis strip club on Oct. 6, 2006.

The swingman was key to the Warriors' impressive run after he was acquired with forward-center Al Harrington in January in a season-changing eight-player trade with Indiana. Jackson averaged 16.8 points and 4.6 assists in 38 games with Golden State, while Harrington posted 17.0 points and 6.4 rebounds in 42 contests.

The Warriors will also be without Jason Richardson, who was traded to Charlotte in a draft-day deal for No. 8 overall pick Brandan Wright.

Those absences could mean more scoring responsibility for point guard Baron Davis, the team's leader last season with 20.1 points and 8.1 assists in 63 games. He was outstanding in 11 postseason contests with 25.3 points and 6.5 assists, including 25.6 and 7.6, respectively, in five games against Utah.

Davis excelled in his first season as the point guard in coach Don Nelson's up-tempo offense. Nelson is back for his second season in his second stint with Golden State after signing a new contract in September. His 1,232 victories are the second-most in NBA history.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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