The Golden State Warriors are now two whole games behind the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference with less than 20 games left in the season. The Rockets won the season series against the Warriors as well, meaning they own the tie breaker in the event of a tie at the end of the year, essentially giving them a three game lead on the Dubs. At the rate at which the Rockets are playing now, winning 20 of their last 21 games, it seems as though the regular season crown will be surrendered to an opponent for the first time in the Steve Kerr era. The injury bug that bit the Warriors recently also does not help their cause. The recent injuries to Stephen Curry (ankle), Klay Thompson (thumb), Draymond Green (shoulder), Kevin Durant (rib), David West (arm), Patrick McCaw (wrist), Andre Iguodala (wrist) have brought a somber feeling to the Warriors fan base and has pretty much assured one thing: The Warriors probably won’t get the first seed – and that’s ok.
Learn from the past
The 2016 Golden State run towards the end of the year took a lot out of the group. Focusing in and going all out to chase the NBA wins record put unnecessary stress and fatigue on the players. This stress and fatigue likely had something to do with the barrage of injuries that followed and plagued them throughout the 2016 NBA playoffs. A knee and ankle injury in addition to a lingering shoulder issue to Stephen Curry in the first round visibly effected him in the later rounds and in the Finals. Back issues haunted Andre Iguodala in the Finals and a knee injury to Andrew Bogut in game five didn’t help either. The grind of a fourth year title run has noticeably taken a toll on the Warriors already; putting any unnecessary effort into a late year first seed push, can cause long-term issues that could possibly tip to scale in favor of a playoff opponent. The Warriors coaching staff, as well as the players have made it clear that the first overall seed is something that they would love to have, but is also something that does not take priority over health going into the post-season.
In addition to “conceding” the first overall seed to the Houston Rockets to preserve their legs and correct health issues, the Warriors may want to get the second seed to get favorable match-ups in the playoffs anyway. The Oklahoma City Thunder are the fourth seed in the West and have only a 2.5 game lead on the tenth seeded Denver Nuggets. There are literally eight teams that the Warriors could possibly face in round one, and there’s no doubt that there are certain teams that they would rather play than others. Match-ups mean a lot in a series and can mean a lot in the long run for a team even in the event that they advance. Bigger, more physical teams can tire teams out and bang them up pretty good heading into the next series. Weaker teams can help sharpen edges and focus in heading into the next series. Match-ups are everything in the playoffs and with the second seed all but guaranteed, the Warriors are hoping to get as close to 100% healthy as possible with the most favorable match-up possible.