SAN FRANCISCO — As the Golden State Warriors move through the final games of the regular season, they operate with one very clear goal in mind: finishing in the top six in the Western Conference.
“We definitely want to stay out of the play-in tournament,” Stephen Curry he said after the Warriors’ 120-112 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. “You never know how that can go: a single game here or there.”
“That’s dangerous,” dramond green aggregate. “We would prefer to avoid that.”
After Friday night’s action, the Warriors currently sit in the sixth seed in the Western Conference, just a few percentage points behind the fifth-place Phoenix Suns, yet the Suns hold the tiebreaker over the Warriors. Both Phoenix and Golden State are a half game behind the LA Clippers in fourth and are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers in seventh and eighth, respectively.
However, the Warriors are not following the standings. And to some extent, it’s not worth it.
With how congested the Western Conference standings are, the chances are that the standings will come down to the last few games of the season. Any change in the standings will not solely depend on the victories of an individual team, but on how each game ends throughout the league.
“We just try to win every game we play,” Green said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily, ‘Oh man, we can get those guys.'” It’s a log jam. If you take care of business and win the games you’re supposed to win, maybe one or two you’re not supposed to win, you put yourself in a great position. That is our goal.”
Golden State’s most recent two games were hugely important in getting into those positions. Their win against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday created a 2.5-game gap between the two teams. And with the Mavericks losing again on Friday, they’ve now slipped to 11th in the West.
The Warriors’ victory against the 76ers was another important move to stay out of the play-in. They have another one on Sunday against the Timberwolves.
Last week, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that Golden State has to approach each of its remaining games as if it were a playoff game. Green, who has admitted that he has a hard time giving 100% for a game played in mid-March, said it’s the time of year to improve performance levels, echoing Kerr’s message.
Their last two games showed signs of the level of play that Golden State usually displays in the postseason.
“The mentality is always that you’re trying to put together a solid run going into the playoffs. Nobody wants to go into the playoffs and have to fire it up,” Curry said. “In a way we did that last year, but you’d rather not have that kind of uncertainty. No matter how it turns out, you want to be firing on all cylinders.”
The Warriors have just seven games left on their regular-season schedule: four at home and three on the road. Golden State finally posted back-to-back road wins on the same trip for the first time this season, but still, there’s added pressure to build on their four-game home stay.
Two of those games, Sunday against the Timberwolves and Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans, are against teams trying to make it to the tournament or, better yet, the playoffs.
“It’s extremely important” jordan poole he said about the need to win their remaining home games. The Warriors will also host Oklahoma City next week, another game-hungry team.
“With the dynamics and situation this year with our home and away wins and losses, we can’t afford too many home losses.”
According to Curry, no matter how you look at his final stretch of the season, whether it’s focusing on the qualifying race, the momentum needed to build over the final seven games, or how individuals want to take on their role, it all leads to the same mindset.
“It all leads to a sense of urgency to win the next game,” Curry said, “because of the time of year we are in and also because of the stakes, short term and long term.”