The Golden State Warriors’ 119-97 win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night wasn’t the potential postseason preview northern California basketball fans had been long anticipating after all.
Essentially locked into the third seed in the West pre-tipoff, Sacramento sat its stars at Golden One Center, giving DeAaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis and company some extra rest before the first round of the playoffs begin on April 15th. If only the aging Warriors, still in the process of reintegrating Andrew Wiggins, had that luxury.
At least Steve Kerr’s team did come one crucial step closer to avoiding the play-in tournament by taking care of the Kings’ backups. Here’s where the Warriors’ postseason scenarios stand—with just Sunday’s matchup against the tanking Portland Trail Blazers remaining in a wild regular season—after Friday night’s action in the league.
Warriors net five seed, meet Phoenix Suns for first-round clash
- Beat Portland, LA Clippers lose to Suns or Blazers
- Lose to Portland, LA Clippers lose out, New Orleans Pelicans lose to Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers lose to Utah Jazz
It bears repeating at least one more time: This is not Golden State’s preferred path in the playoffs.
The Lakers beat the Suns with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and the rest in street clothes, keeping the purple-and-gold’s hopes of finishing fifth or sixth alive. Rest assured Los Angeles doesn’t want to see Phoenix in the first round either, though, and neither do the Clippers.
Durant and Booker could be the best player in any seven-game series throughout the postseason. That possibility is reason enough for the Warriors and other teams to steer clear the Suns, even before accounting for Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton and a quietly stellar defense with Durant on the floor.
But the five seed would also put Golden State on a collision course with the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals if the defending champs managed to take down Phoenix. Does anyone doubt the Warriors would rather see the rival Memphis Grizzlies in the second round than Nikola Jokic?
Wins from the Lakers and Pelicans on Friday prevented the Dubs from clinching a playoff spot with the victory over Sacramento. Steve Kerr will have to play his core again in Portland to guarantee Golden State stays out of the play-in tournament—also risking that dreaded first-round matchup with the Suns.
Warriors fall back to sixth, setting up I-80 battle with Kings
- Beat Portland, Clippers go 2-0
- Lose to Portland, Clippers finish 1-1, Pelicans lose to Wolves, Lakers lose to Jazz
Golden State is actually fifth in the West as Friday comes to a close, but doesn’t control its destiny to stay there. The Clippers host the Blazers on Saturday then go south to meet the Suns 24 hours later, giving them the opportunity to finish 44-38, too. LA holds the tiebreaker over the Warriors due to division record.
No disrespect to Sacramento, but this is the optimal scenario for the Dubs.
They’re fully capable of scoring with the Kings, and obviously have a much better chance at buckling down on defense in the playoffs than Mike Brown’s squad. Golden State already knows it can beat Memphis in the second round, too, and needs as much time as possible to get close to full-strength before being subject to the rigors of playoff basketball.
Keep your fingers crossed for sixth, Dub Nation.
Warriors tumble to seven seed, host play-in game
Possible path: Lose to Portland, Clippers finish 1-1, Pelicans OR Lakers lose finale
No team has ever won a first-round series after coming through the play-in tournament.
More practice time for Andrew Wiggins and several days of additional rest for Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are even more important for the Dubs than getting the most advantageous first-round matchup.
Dominant as they’ve been at Chase Center in 2022-23, these Warriors definitely aren’t above losing to another team that finished in the Western Conference middle class.
There are many more reasons why Golden State’s dreams of back-to-back championship would effectively be dashed by falling to the play-in tournament. At least finishing seventh would be better than eighth, right?
Warriors drop to eighth, get two chances for one win to advance past play-in
Possible path: Lose to Portland, Pelicans AND Lakers win finale
This living nightmare sees the Warriors leaving the friendly confines of San Francisco to likely face the Pelicans or Lakers in the play-in opener. A loss, hardly impossible despite a heightened sense of urgency given their historic road woes throughout 2022-23, would send the Dubs back to Chase Center for a do-or-die battle against the winner of the 9-10 game, probably the Timberwolves or Oklahoma City Thunder.
No thanks. This season has been way too backwards for Golden State to expect it to win any single-elimination game, even at home, let alone make noise in the playoffs if the Warriors are forced to take the floor twice in the play-in.
The season wouldn’t be over if the Dubs have dropped to eighth by conclusion of the 82-game grind on Sunday. For all intents and purposes, though, it would be time to turn the page toward an offseason marked by uncertainty—and ripe for franchise-altering drama.