When the Golden State Warriors saw a run of six home games to close the regular season on their schedule earlier this year, they hoped to be able to use it to lock up a postseason berth or, better yet, to improve their playoff seeding.
Turns out, they’re going to get an opportunity to do both when the 11-day stretch tips off Thursday night against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Warriors (33-33) flew home from their final road trip of the season early Wednesday morning tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings remained alive in their efforts to earn spots in the NBA’s new play-in tournament, possibly knocking out Golden State in the process.
The importance of finishing no lower than eighth in the standings is it would give the Warriors two shots to get into the 16-team main draw.
The eighth seed opens the play-in tournament on the road against the seventh seed, with the winner claiming the West’s seventh spot.
The loser then gets to host the survivor of the 9/10 elimination matchup, with the winner earning the West’s final playoff berth.
The Warriors begin their six-game sprint to the regular-season finish with consecutive games against the Thunder (21-45) in a three-day stretch, before the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans and Memphis visit San Francisco over the final seven days.
Golden State’s Juan Toscano-Anderson, who has taken on an increased role with James Wiseman, Eric Paschall and Kelly Oubre Jr. injured, said the goal in the final six games isn’t just to make the playoffs but to go in with the highest possible seeding and maximum momentum.
“We have to have the mentality that it’s kind of do-or-die,” he said. “The fact that we are at home, we definitely need to take advantage of that opportunity. We’ve got to win these games.”
The Warriors have split their past 10 games. They went 1-1 in New Orleans on Monday and Tuesday in contests the Pelicans desperately needed to stay relevant in the playoff chase.
Stephen Curry cooled down late on a 37-point night Tuesday in Golden State’s 108-103 loss in the rematch with the Pelicans. He had scorched New Orleans for 41 points one night earlier in a 123-108 win.
Curry exploded for 42 points in just 29 minutes when the Warriors demolished the Thunder 147-109 on the road last month. Golden State scored 50 points in the third quarter of that contest.
Oklahoma City, well out of the playoff race with one of the worst records in the NBA, figures to play a role in where teams finish in the standings. After facing the Warriors twice, the Thunder will have a similar “doubleheader” at Sacramento before wrapping up at home against Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Thunder have lost four in a row, the first two in blowouts by a total of 71 points and the past two to Phoenix by three and Sacramento by four.
Oklahoma City figures to finish with one of the six worst records in the league, playing musical chairs with the Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets for the most valuable lottery seats.
Thunder coach Mark Daigneault disclosed this week that his team is prepared to go the rest of the way without star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has missed the past 23 games with a tear in the plantar fascia of his right foot.
“It’s not something that you should really mess around with,” Daigneault said. “If we got aggressive with him, it could compromise him long-term, which makes no sense.”
–Field Level Media