The Week That Was:
This week featured a shocking juxtaposition of the beauty on the court and the strangeness off it.
The Warriors rebounded from last Sunday’s depressing home loss to the Knicks with a huge overtime win against the Mavericks. The likely blown goaltending call towards the end does not cheapen the result at all since NBA games feature so much scoring and so many tough calls that isolating any one feels like a fool’s errand.
The next night, the Dubs lost in San Antonio. Not much to say about that other than the fact that the Spurs would be the toughest out in the Western Conference for the Warriors.
A return home to Oakland yielded dominant wins against two teams who should be beaten in that fashion at this point in the year. Andrew Bogut coming back from his pelvic contusion (and a bruise he said was the size of a baseball) and playing well against Utah meant the most long term in a game where Steph and Klay combined for 44 first half points.
The drama for the week stayed in the assistant coach realm as the team fired Darren Erman, who had been with Golden State for all of Mark Jackson’s tenure after spending four years with the Celtics under Doc Rivers. The reason given for the firing was “a violation of company policy” and according to Stephen Curry, last night the players had not heard any more specific justification for the move. I sincerely doubt we see any impact on the floor.
The Soapbox: What Seed Should the Warriors Want?
As we get closer to the end of the season, the Warriors basically have two different paths in the playoffs, though multiple disappointing losses can shift them a little bit.
Considering their two-game lead on the 7-9 teams and very manageable schedule, we can largely put the possibility of getting the seventh or eighth seed aside. Anyway, getting the #8 and #7 would be the two worst outcomes (in that order) so they are out of the discussion. The amount of games separating the top four teams means that we likely know those franchises and their order.
From there, we have two basic options:
Door #1: The Rockets in the first round and a likely series against the Spurs if the Warriors beat Houston.
Door #2: The Clippers in the first round and a likely series against the Thunder if the Warriors beat LA.
Before Patrick Beverley’s injury, this was an open and shut case. The Rockets gave Golden State fits even before they acquired Dwight Howard while the Clippers have been more manageable despite being a quality team. Losing Beverley changed the conversation because he played a huge role as a nuisance for Stephen Curry, and one of the keys to keeping their defense above water. However, reporting last week indicated that he may return by the end of the season though I openly question how ready Beverley would be to make an impact in the first round.
Depending on your level of optimism, looking at the potential second-round opponents could provide some valuable perspective. The Spurs are the nightmare matchup for the Dubs, and we have seen it all year. Only a prolonged Tony Parker injury (he had an MRI today and is day-to-day with a sprained facet joint) would keep me from firmly putting them as the least desirable Western Conference foe. While OKC can be an excellent team, their inconsistency in execution provides more outs for a Warriors squad that works best capitalizing on mistakes.
While we do not know exactly how healthy the Clippers and Rockets will be at the start of the playoffs, I see them as fairly comparable if Beverley plays with limitations and one of the Clippers’ swingmen cannot play at full strength. Considering the meaningful disparity between potential second round opponents, the sixth seed would actually be better than the fifth, as was the case last season.
The Week to Come:
After a welcome three days off since seemingly the entire team is hurt or sick, the Warriors get a home game against a Denver team that has struggled immensely recently. While I do think the Nuggets will be feisty both at Oracle and in their home finale on the last game of the season, winning on the tail end of a back-to-back following a game against the Rockets in Denver will be a tall order. In fact, both remaining Warriors/Nuggets games have Denver playing the night before and Golden State with at least one day off. Some fortuitous scheduling that may have been a bigger deal if the Nuggets were in the mix.
Immediately after facing Denver, the Dubs must head down to Staples Center to finish their own back-to-back against the Lakers. Even though the Lake Show has lost four straight and likely will increase that to five before Friday, they are still dangerous with home wins over the Suns and Knicks in the last two weeks.
After a day off, the Warriors head up to Portland for their last game of the regular season against a playoff team. The Blazers and Warriors are separated by just a game in the loss column right now and this matchup could determine who gets the fifth seed. As I said above, losing this game and securing the sixth seed would actually be the better outcome for Golden State but the organization would still gun for the win either way.
With the first two games as pretty clear wins and the third a pure toss-up, I am going to be positive and expect a 3-0 week.