The three games — Thursday hosting the Lakers, then a weekend road back-to-back against the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans — are important in the standings. The Warriors have a one-game lead over the Dallas Mavericks in the fight for the third seed, and the Mavs own the tiebreaker. So the Warriors need to match Dallas’ record in the final three games or they’ll fall to the fourth seed.
There are reasons to want to stay in the third seed. It sounds cooler. It gives the Dubs home court advantage if they happen to meet the Mavs in the Conference Finals. And it puts off a potential showdown against the Phoenix Suns for an extra round, which, given Chris Paul’s injury history, could be significant.
But for the most part the difference between the third and fourth seed isn’t much. They’ll either face the Denver Nuggets or Utah Jazz in the first round, and it’s unclear which opponent will line up with which seed. They’ll likely have to go through both the Suns and Memphis Grizzlies to win the West, in one order or the other.
It’s not that consequential.
But they’re still important games, because the Dubs have a lot they can accomplish ahead of the playoffs.
Here are a few things I’d like to see from the Warriors in their final trifecta of games.
The Warriors last three games featured a beatdown of the Sacramento Kings, a remarkable comeback win over the Jazz, and toe-to-toe loss against the Suns, despite the absence of Steph Curry.
They should be feeling pretty good about themselves. They’ll be feeling a lot better about themselves if they end the season on a five-game winning streak, rather than another skid.
New Orleans and San Antonio have things to play for, and are in the play-in tournament. The Warriors handling business ahead of a Curry return would go a long way towards reminding themselves of what they’re capable of.
A Wiggins resurgence
Andrew Wiggins’ struggles over the last two months have been well documented, particularly by me. I don’t need to rehash them.
But he’s also been putting things back together lately. Against the Kings he had 25 points — his first time hitting the quarter century mark since January 1 — on 8-for-16 shooting. Against the Jazz he had 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Even going back further into some of the rougher games, he’s getting to the free throw line more, improving his shot selection, and committing more on defense.
Despite his label, the Warriors don’t need Wiggins to play like an All-Star. But they do need him to be an asset, not a liability, and they need that on both ends of the court. If he can build on the last few games, then he can accomplish that ahead of just his second playoff appearance.
Keep the Jordan Poole train running
Are you ready for a wild stat?
Jordan Poole has scored 20 or more points in 17 straight games. That’s not the wild stat; you already knew that one.
The wild stat is that Klay Thompson’s career high for consecutive 20-point games is nine. And if Poole hits the 20-point mark against LA, San Antonio, and New Orleans, he’ll end the year having matched Curry’s career high of 20 straight games.
Right now Poole is playing like one of the best offensive players in the entire NBA. Since the start of March, his 25.6 points per game is 20th in the league, and features much better efficiency than the bulk of the names ahead of him ... and he’s done that without benefitting from Curry’s gravity.
Poole was a quality player in the first few months of the season, but he’s been a star over the last six weeks. The difference between those two versions of him could be the difference between the Warriors going home early, and the Warriors popping champagne bottles in June.
I don’t have a specific thing to say about Klay, just that every game is an opportunity for him to round more and more into shape and rhythm, and these three games are no exception.
The Warriors won’t get Curry back until the postseason, but it’s still important to play in a style that will make it easy to maximize Curry’s value when he does return. They need to pump up the ball movement, and look like an offense that is a superstar away from being really good. They haven’t done much of that lately.
Commit on defense
They’ve been doing a good job of this lately. They need to keep it going for three more games so they can see what they’re capable of in the important games.
Get it done, Dubs.