A Look at the Warriors’ Playoff Picture - 4/9/21

How the Warriors Could Figure in to the NBA’s New Playoff Structure, What the Final Month of the Season Holds

There is just over one month left of NBA action, and with the Warriors (24-27) sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference, they are part of a grouping of teams fighting for playoff seeding. With that in mind, it is time to start painting the Warriors’ playoff picture.

With changes made to the NBA Playoffs structure in which a new play-in tournament decides the seventh and eighth playoff spots, there is much to know and keep and eye on as the Warriors enter their final 21 games, starting with tonight’s matchup against the Washington Wizards (7 p.m., NBCSBA, NBA TV). Let’s take a look at what is going on for the Dubs and around the conference that may carry playoff implications for the team.

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New Play-In Tournament

Following the use of a play-in tournament for the COVID-19 shortened 2019-20 season, the NBA is implementing the same structure for this season. But what is a play-in tournament and how does it work?

Here’s how it works:

  • At the end of the season, teams in first through sixth place in their conference are locked in their playoff position. Any team 11th place or worse will be in the next NBA Draft Lottery.

  • The remaining four teams from each conference, the seventh through 10th place teams, will play in a series of three games, making up the Play-In Tournament.

  • In each conference, the No. 7 team will host the No. 8 team with the winner securing the No. 7 seed in the playoffs.

  • The No. 9 team will host the No. 10 team. The loser of the matchup is eliminated and joins the lottery group.

  • The loser of the 7/8 game will host the winner of the 9/10 game, with the winner claiming the final No. 8 position in the Playoffs, and the loser joining the draft lottery.

In summary, the teams that finish the regular season in the No. 7 and No. 8 spots will have two chances to win one game and earn a playoff spot. The teams that finish No. 9 and No. 10 need to win two consecutive games to advance to the NBA Playoffs.

A Look at the NBA Playoff Bracket

The last day of the regular season is Sunday, May 16, on which day the Warriors host the Memphis Grizzlies at Chase Center. The Play-In Tournament begins Tuesday, May 18, and ends May 21 with the first game of the NBA Playoffs set for May 22.

In The Mix

The Dubs sit in a tight race with five other Western Conference rivals — Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings — around the play-in tournament spots with 7.5 games separating them all.

The Warriors currently sit at No. 10. The Portland Trail Blazers sit at #6 (30-21) six games ahead of the Dubs. Looking at strength of schedule remaining, or the winning record of the teams they are scheduled to face, the Trail Blazers have the third most difficult one on the docket (.545) with tough matchups that include Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz. Though reaching Portland at No. 6 in one month is possible for the Dubs, in reality it may be a stretch.

So we turn our attention to trying to claim better seeding within the play-in tournament.

Sitting just one game ahead of the Dubs at No. 9 are the San Antonio Spurs. The schedule is not a kind one for the Gregg Popovich-led team as they have no more than one day off between games from March 10 through the end of the season on May 16. That schedule also includes eight back-to-backs for the team. The Spurs also have the second toughest schedule remaining (.555) as they must play the hot Jazz twice and upstart Phoenix Suns three times.

The Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies are looking at easier schedules ahead of them in terms of opponent winning percentage (.469 for DAL; .485 for MEM) . The two clubs both have four games over the next week, including a game against each other on Wednesday. Dub Nation will want to watch these two clubs and their matchup as they can have big implications on the Warriors’ seeding in the tournament and how far up they may be able to move.

Look Out Behind You

It’s not just the teams ahead of the Warriors to watch, as Dub Nation will want to keep an eye on the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. Both sit within 2.5 games of the squad and the Dubs face these teams four times over the final three weeks of the season.

It will start with wrapping up the three-game season series against the Kings on Apr. 25. The Warriors and Kings have split their series 1-1 so far.

Interestingly, the Dubs have yet to play the Pelicans through the 2020-21 campaign, and they will not play each other for the first of their three-game season series until May 3, with just two weeks remaining in the NBA regular season. The two clubs have a back-to-back set in New Orleans, then face each other in the next-to-last game of the season on May 14.

There you have it, Dub Nation. This marks the start of what will be a race to the finish, to both the end of the regular season and the play-in tournament in the ramp-up to the NBA Playoffs.

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