The Golden State Warriors (46-36) were forced to navigate a number of potholes during the regular season, and there will unfortunately be more for them to sidestep in the NBA Play-In Tournament. Gary Payton II has been ruled out for Tuesday night's matchup with the Sacramento Kings and the potential Wednesday game as well, according to ESPN's Kendra Andrews.

The key bench piece is dealing with a calf injury and has been sidelined since April 9. He has played in only 44 games this season, as health continues to be a big issue during his career. Payton's defense, athleticism and high motor have garnered him respect within the organization and fandom, so this development is undeniably a downer.

Obviously, the timing of the situation only accentuates this bad news. The Warriors enter this must-win showdown with the Kings as the far hotter team, after prevailing in 10 of their last 12 contests. Sacramento is limping into the Play-In but does have the luxury of playing in front of its home crowd.

This injury can also swing some momentum in the team's favor. Although Payton averages just 15.5 minutes per game, his productivity (5.5 points on 56.3 percent shooting with nearly one steal per night) and intangibles make him a valuable member of the second unit.

And fans know how important the supporting cast is to this team's chances for postseason success. The NBA Play-In Tournament is supposed to offer Golden State a clean slate, but with opening tip-off still more than 24 hours way, its back already seems to be against the wall.

Warriors must continue to dig deep with playoff hopes on the line

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and forward Draymond Green (23) celebrate after the three point basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during the third quarter at Chase Center.
Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Many basketball fans counted out the Dubs in the first half of the season. Draymond Green's suspensions, Klay Thompson's struggles and an unforgiving Western Conference all portended the official fall of this empire. Golden State might still finish the campaign in ruins, but it has restored fans' faith.

Since the calendar flipped to 2024, few teams have been better than the Warriors (31-19). They have not lost more than two-straight games in that span and do not have a double-digit defeat since March 22. When operating at full strength, Steve Kerr's squad is lethal.

But all it takes to derail their momentum and abruptly send them home is one slip-up. The absence of Gary Payton II can make more of a difference than a neutral fan might think. He is an energizer, and that can be crucial for a team that ventures into hostile territory. Though, Golden State has no qualms about competing in the Golden 1 Center.

The Warriors poured cold water over the Kings' stellar 2022-23 regular season, defeating them on the road in Game 7 of the opening round of the playoffs. Unless they plunge another dagger into Sacramento, their fan base will be forced to endure its own form of misery this offseason.

It is unclear if Payton will be able to rejoin Golden State for the start of the postseason if the team survives the NBA Play-In Tournament. He will be fidgeting with the rest of Dubs Nation when tip-off commences at 10 p.m. ET on Tuesday.