The Golden State Warriors are inching their way closer to the franchise’s second playoff birth in nearly two decades. They are currently sitting in the sixth seed of the Western Conference with a 41-32 record, just one game up on the seventh seed Houston Rockets (39-33) and at least four games up on the handful of teams fighting for the eighth seed and below.
The Warriors have been able to hang onto the sixth seed for a majority of the second half, always rebounding from tough times and righting the ship. The consistent second half play of Stephen Curry has been a big reason for Golden State’s recent success. Since the All-Star break, Curry is averaging 25.6 points, 7.2 assists, and four rebounds per contest. His three-point shooting ranks among the best in the league as he has connected on 229 threes on 45% shooting.
As of the current standings, the streaking Denver Nuggets (50-24) are in the third seed and would host the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. This is an unfavorable matchup for the Warriors who are simply not as athletic as Denver. The Nuggets won the season series 3-1.
However, with a little over three weeks remaining in the regular season, the standings are bound to change. The Los Angeles Clippers (49-24) are just 1/2 game behind the Nuggets and would be the best matchup for the Warriors, who dominated the season series 3-1. The Warriors have played extremely well against the talented Clippers team and it has turned into the newest heated Northern California vs. Southern California rivalry.
For two franchises that have been the laughing stocks of the league for the better part of two decades, it is ironic that they are both suddenly relevant and may face each other in the playoffs. The Clippers have now become L.A.’s good team. Something that no one could have ever imagined.
The Memphis Grizzlies (48-24) also find themselves just one game out of the third seed. This has been another unfavorable matchup for the Warriors because of the dominant big men of Memphis. However, with the recent injury of Marc Gasol and the return of a slowly but surely improving Andrew Bogut for the Warriors, it could change things. Memphis swept the season series in dominant fashion 3-0.
No matter who ends up in the third seed, it is important for the Warriors to stay focused on themselves and secure their sixth spot heading into the postseason. They do not want to drop to the seventh or eighth seed and have to play the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. As the season winds down, it will be interesting to see what happens.
You can follow Rich Peters on twitter @Tricky_Roma.