As of Friday, there were four games separating fifth place and tenth place in the NBA’s Western Conference standings, as summarized by Sam Amick in his piece for The Athletic that day about the three-way logjam between the Sacramento Kings, L.A. Clippers, and L.A. Lakers.
As of today — after the Houston Rockets beat the Golden State Warriors on Saturday and the Clippers and San Antonio Spurs both lost yesterday — there are six games separating fifth and 11th place, as shown below.
Your mileage may vary as to whether you believe the Minnesota Timberwolves are really in this mix beyond a mathematical possibility, but ... hey ... they’re right there on the heels of the Lakers so let’s just leave them there for now.
But with 23 games left in the Warriors’ regular season — and with so many people looking ahead to the playoffs at this point — it’s time to begin wondering about possible playoff opponents. And that conversation really began in earnest after the Warriors’ thrilling 125-123 win against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday evening.
The possibility of a Northern California rivalry
There were plenty of tweets from fans and media alike on Thursday night about how exciting a Warriors-Kings series could be after four exciting games between the NBA’s two northern Californian teams facing off.
Dear Basketball God's I don't ask for much but could you please find it in your heart to give us a Warriors vs Kings playoff matchup?— Tom Tolbert (@byronjr23) February 22, 2019
Warriors escape with a 125-123 win over the Kings. How entertaining would a Warriors-Kings first-round series be?— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) February 22, 2019
No, it’s not exactly the Bay Bridge series or even a matchup with the sometimes insane levels of emotion that a San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders game can drum up, but we’re well aware of how fun these things can be in the Bay Area — given the regular season series, it could just become a fun experience.
During 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend, Klay Thompson told media that he would welcome a first round series with the Kings because it would lessen the burden of travel that might be necessary against a different opponent — I mean, I-80 traffic can be unpredictably terrible, but it is easier than traveling to somewhere like Texas.
Klay on a Warriors vs Kings Playoff Series pic.twitter.com/uv4FqLZ2rC— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 16, 2019
Meanwhile, Draymond Green would prefer not to play the Kings due to their uptempo style of play, which could be wearing for a team that’s seeking a fifth-straight trip to the NBA Finals.
Dray has a great reason why he doesn't want to face the Kings in the playoffs pic.twitter.com/IqQVL4UM0g— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) February 22, 2019
So if not the Kings, then who?
A crowded field for the two bottom seeds
Anthony Slater of The Athletic suggested that the Clippers would be a preferred opponent for the Warriors — you get the compromise of remaining in-state while not playing such an exhausting team.
Clippers as the 8 seed is probably the Warriors' preference. Stay in state, don't get roped into lightning-paced, tiring series vs young Kings, get an April weekend in LA, don't have to deal with LeBron/media circus https://t.co/B0HI0IPUJL— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 23, 2019
Of course, Lakers fans are gonna scream from the rooftops about why the Lakers are the obvious choice. From a business standpoint, that also just makes sense — LeBron James vs. Golden State, Part 5, big television market, blah blah blah.
The most NBA hipster thing I’ve ever seen was people #onhere saying they’d rather have Kings-Warriors than Lakers-Warriors.— Anthony F. Irwin (@AnthonyIrwinLA) February 22, 2019
We’ve done it. It is not possible to get more NBA hipster than this.
But seriously, what Warriors fan really wants to see Golden State vs. LeBron, Part 5 when the outcome would be even more obvious?
A case could certainly be made for rooting for the Houston Rockets to slide down to the bottom of the playoff seeding to send the reigning Most Valuable Flopper home early, but ... again ... been there, done that (and I have zero interest in watching his march to the free throw line against the Warriors). Ditto for the Jazz...and maybe even the San Antonio Spurs, who are not quite what they used to be with Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard.
Acknowledging Green’s concerns, the Kings offer the right mix of on-court entertainment, local excitement, and young talent that would make watching another first round series in the quest for a fifth straight NBA Finals appearance fun.
What team do you hope the Warriors will face in the first round?
This poll is closed
San Antonio Spurs
I don’t really care