Looking to Keep Building

For a team that lost its first six games of the season, the Golden State Warriors have reason to be optimistic.

They'll have Stephen Jackson in the lineup for the first time on Sunday when they look to build on their first victory by visiting the Toronto Raptors in the opener of a five-game road trip.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Toronto -5.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 218.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on Golden State +5.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The Warriors won nine of their last 10 regular-season games to clinch their first playoff berth in 13 years last season. They then became the first No. 8 seed to beat a top-seeded team in a seven-game series by eliminating Dallas in six games.

Despite last season's strong finish, Golden State (1-6) came out flat, opening 2007-08 with six straight losses. Part of the reason for the Warriors' early struggles was the absence of Jackson, the team's third-leading scorer last season and a catalyst in Golden State's first playoff series win since 1991.

Jackson was suspended for the season's first seven games after pleading guilty to a felony count of criminal recklessness for firing a gun outside an Indiana strip club last fall. That wasn't the first disciplinary action the league has handed down on Jackson - a key member of the infamous brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills in November 2004 while playing for Indiana. Jackson was suspended 30 games for that incident, but claims he's learned from his troubled past.

He has apparently convinced Golden State coach Don Nelson, who named Jackson a team captain this summer.

"I'm the same guy," Jackson told the Warriors' official Web site. "I'm just making smarter decisions and being more positive now. Being the captain, I have to lead by example, so I'm starting to do that."

Jackson rejoins a Golden State club that got its first win of the season on Friday, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 122-105 as seven players scored in double figures. Baron Davis had 21 points and 12 assists and Andris Biedrins had 23 points and 18 rebounds in the victory.

"It doesn't matter what anyone says - we had a monkey on our back," said Matt Barnes, who had 17 points and a career-high eight assists. "It was tough, especially the way we finished last year. I think this will lead to better things for us now."

Al Harrington had 27 points and eight rebounds Friday, and is averaging 24.8 points and shooting 57.1 percent from the field as a starter after opening the season as a reserve. With the Warriors back at full strength, Harrington is confident they can start to regain their form from last spring.

"It's a great feeling," he said after Friday's win. "Now we get Captain Jack back, and hopefully start to make some noise."

The Warriors, who were just 12-29 on the road last season, could struggle in Toronto, where the Raptors (5-4) went 30-11 in 2006-07 en route to their first division title.

The Raptors' home success, however, hasn't translated to this season as they've dropped three of their first five games at the Air Canada Centre. They had lost three in a row there before snapping the skid with a 110-101 victory over Indiana on Friday.

Chris Bosh led Toronto with 22 points, but was just 5-for-15 from the field. He's shooting a career-low 41.0 percent after connecting on 50.1 percent of his shots over the past two seasons.

"When they start going in, it's going to be trouble for a lot of people," he said.

These teams split two meetings last season with the home club winning each game. Bosh had 23 points and 22 rebounds in the one game he played against Golden State.

Davis, meanwhile, averaged 21.0 points and 11.5 assists in two games against Toronto.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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