Where things look on Thursday morning.
On Monday I posted a Western Conference standings update, so we could all see where the Golden State Warriors were with less than two weeks left in the season. It only took a few hours for everything I wrote to change because of that night’s games, with the Warriors dropping a spot without playing.
The jumped back up a spot after Tuesday’s comeback win over the New Orleans Pelicans, and the standings got another shakeup on Wednesday with the bulk of the teams that are jockeying for position playing.
So, after Wednesday’s slew of games, it’s time to look at where things stand entering Thursday morning.
Most of Wednesday’s results did not go in the Warriors favor, but one crucial contest did: old friend Kevin Durant returned to the court for the Phoenix Suns, and helped them beat the Minnesota Timberwolves. That pushed the Dubs a full game ahead of the Wolves in the standings, which is vital because Minnesota holds the tiebreaker. If they finish with the same record, the Wolves will leapfrog the Warriors. But as long as Golden State does as well over their final five games as Minnesota does, then the Dubs will stay in front.
You be the judge of how likely that will be. The Warriors have home games against the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, with road contests against the Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, and Portland Trail Blazers. The Wolves are at home against the Los Angeles Lakers, Blazers, and New Orleans Pelicans, with road contests versus the Brooklyn Nets and Spurs.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Clippers eked out a win over the Memphis Grizzlies, which definitely hurt the Warriors. With a loss, the Clippers and Warriors would have had the same record, but LA holds the tiebreaker. Instead, the Clippers moved a full game ahead of the Dubs in the standings, meaning the Warriors have to win two more games than LAC over the final five-game stretch. Not super likely, but not impossible either, seeing as how the Clippers are without Paul George, and have a very difficult final stretch: another road game against the Grizzlies, plus road games against the Pelicans and Suns, and home games against the Lakers and Blazers. The dream of the fifth seed isn’t dead yet, though the focus is firmly on staying out of the play-in tournament, rather than rising in the standings.
The dream of the fourth seed is probably dead. Phoenix’s win over Minnesota was good for Golden State, but also mostly shut the door on the Dubs reaching the fourth spot. The Suns have a 1.5 game lead over the Warriors, hold the tiebreaker, and are finally healthy.
The Lakers won again, beating the Chicago Bulls, and pulled to within 1.5 games of the Warriors. The Lakers hold the tiebreaker so it would behoove the Dubs to not leave them an opening.
The Thunder also eked out a win over James Wiseman’s Detroit Pistons, but the Warriors probably don’t need to worry about them. OKC remains two games back, and the Dubs should win that tiebreaker.
The Utah Jazz won as well, but at 3.5 games behind the Warriors, and with Golden State owning the tiebreaker, there’s really nothing to worry about there. Utah is fighting to get in the play-in tournament, not to jump past the Warriors.
And finally, the Dallas Mavericks lost yet again. At this point they’re not really on Golden State’s radar either, as the Warriors are three games ahead and own the tiebreaker. But they’re on the fans’ radars, because Dallas missing the playoffs — they’re currently a game out of the play-in tournament — would be objectively hilarious.
Here’s where everything stands entering Thursday’s games:
If Golden State hangs onto the sixth seed, then they’ll likely have a first-round playoff matchup with old friends Harrison Barnes and Mike Brown and the rest of the Sacramento Kings, who ended their lengthy missed playoffs streak on Wednesday. Sacramento is back in the playoffs for the first time since Steph Curry’s senior year of high school, and the Warriors would have visions of doing very arrogant things to them in a first-round matchup.
Should the Dubs fall to the seventh or eighth spot, then they’ll be in the play-in tournament. As a reminder, the No. 7 and No. 8 teams face each other in the first round of the tournament, with the winner earning the seventh seed and a likely matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies. The loser faces the winner of the game between the No. 9 and No. 10 teams, and that winner earns the eighth and final seed and a likely matchup with the Nuggets.
Only one relevant game is happening on Thursday, as the Nuggets are hosting the Pelicans. If New Orleans wins, they’ll pull within a game of the Warriors.
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