Klay Thompson

Warriors' win over Lakers big for confidence as play-in race tightens

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Although the Warriors still are hopeful of moving into the upper half of the crowded Western Conference play-in bracket, a more likely scenario is that they’ll square off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 9-10 game next Wednesday.

That’s why Tuesday’s 134-120 win in Los Angeles was so crucial.

For one, it was Golden State’s third win in four games against the Lakers this season and gave the Warriors the head-to-head tiebreaker should it come down to that.

More importantly, it should erase any doubt people might have about the Warriors' ability to contend with LeBron James and Co.

The Warriors’ averaged 130 points in the four games, with the only setback coming in a 145-144 double overtime loss on Jan. 27 that was decided when James made two free throws with one second remaining.

Beating the Lakers in Los Angeles in their final regular-season matchup also continued Golden State’s stretch as one of the NBA’s hottest road teams, which is key should they wind up sticking with the No. 10 seed.

As the 10 seed, the Warriors would have to win two road play-in tournament games just to advance to the NBA playoffs. Conversely, the No. 8 seed has two chances to win once to advance.

“We need a little help obviously but all we’ve talked about is just win, take care of our business and see how everything else shakes out,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters at Crypto.com Arena. “So many teams are playing each other in the group that we’re in, and you just never know. Got to keep going, keep winning and see how it plays out.”

Tuesday’s victory improved the Warriors to 44-35 and pulled them within one-half game of the No. 9 Lakers and one game in back of the Sacramento Kings, who are No. 8 at 45-34.

The Phoenix Suns, at 46-33, are No. 7 in the West and are mathematically within reach, although they would have to lose their final three games and the Warriors would have to win out in order to catch them.

As it is, it’s still going to be an uphill battle for Golden State to get out of the No. 10 slot.

It can be done, though.

Two of the Warriors’ final three regular season games are teams near the bottom of the Western Conference: The Portland Trail Blazers (21-58) and Utah Jazz (29-50). They also have a game against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans (47-32)

The Lakers also have somewhat of an easy close to their regular season with games against the Memphis Grizzlies (21-58) and Pelicans.

The Kings have the most difficult remaining schedule of the three teams, having to face the Pelicans, Suns (46-44) and Trail Blazers.

“It would be nice to get to 8 but if we don’t, it’s not the end of the world,” Klay Thompson said, “At the end of the day we have to play whoever’s in front of us.”

Despite their rare position as a low seed, Thompson said that the Warriors are drawing motivation from the Miami Heat’s long playoff run last season. The Heat made it from the No. 7 seed all the way to the NBA Finals before losing to the Denver Nuggets in five games.

“I think we’re capable of a run like that,” Thompson said, “Obviously you can’t look ahead but whatever happens, we’ll all be ready. We all know that it can be done. There’s no task too tall for us.”

The task obviously would get a lot easier if the Warriors could manage to squeeze into the upper portion of the play-in bracket.

Golden State’s recent success on the road – they’ve won 16 of their last 20 away from Chase Center – also bodes well if they stay put at No. 10.

“Anybody in the league would rather have an 8 seed over a 9 seed,” Brandin Podziemski said. “You get two cracks at it to win one game. Quite frankly we’re better on the road than we are at home so if we could get the eighth seed and play the seventh seed on the road, I think we can get it done.

“But in terms of who we play, we don’t really care. It’s just we’re trying to sneak into that 8th seed because it’s right there in front of us.”

The Warriors really don’t care who they have to play once the postseason begins. The four-time NBA champs have been down this road before, albeit not from the final play-in spot, so they have a good feel for what to expect.

On top of that, Golden State has been playing it’s best basketball of the season over the previous two months. Since Jan. 30, the Warriors have 25 wins – second-most in the NBA behind the Boston Celtics, who have 26.

“At times this year it hasn’t come together for us but I think it’s coming together at the right time,” Draymond Green said. “We always feel like if we get a chance … we know what it takes. Just got to make sure we give ourselves the opportunity.”

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