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The Pioneer

The Pioneer

These are the Warriors’ ideal opponents to face in the playoffs

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These are the Warriors’ ideal opponents to face in the playoffs

Ricky Szeto,
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It is time for the Golden State Warriors to begin their push towards the playoffs, where the games truly matter. In March, teams begin gearing towards the postseason. This is the point when teams start to tune rotations and play excellent basketball to finish out the regular season.

Unlike last year, the NBA Western Conference is more volatile and no matchups are set yet. It might come down to game 82 for each playoff team to determine seedings and matchups. The Warriors are trying to repeat this year, so who are the most ideal opponents for them to face in each round of the playoffs?

The Warriors want to face the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1st round, and the San Antonio Spurs or Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round. They will most likely face the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals. This is the easier path to the Finals for the Warriors.

Currently, the Warriors are the second seed in the West. They are one and a half games behind the Rockets for first place. Whoever enters the playoffs in first place gets home court advantage. The Dubs are 10.5 games ahead of third place Portland Trail Blazers. However, only three games determine if a team becomes the third seed or misses the playoffs entirely.

A lot can change over the next month, so the Warriors have to be prepared to face anyone in mid-April. In order for them to have a less stressful playoff journey and avoid unnecessary fatigue, the Warriors want to face off against their SoCal rival, the Clippers, in the 1st Round. The Clippers are currently the eighth seed in the West at 36-29, and are only a half game back of the seventh spot. This matchup favors the Warriors, since there is not much travel time. The series will just be in California. They have beaten the Clippers 14 out of the last 16 times.

The Warriors do not want to face the Denver Nuggets nor the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 1st round. The Nuggets are currently the ninth seed at 37-30, while the Thunder are sixth at 39-29. They are one game ahead of the seventh spot, so the Warriors want to avoid facing them.

The Nuggets’ home arena is at a high altitude, giving them a huge advantage over visiting teams. The Thunder are inconsistent in the regular season, but showed they can play well against the Warriors. OKC has the length and athleticism to keep up with the Dubs. Both of these teams have defeated the Warriors twice already this season.

The best semi-finals opponent to face is either the Spurs or the Timberwolves. The Spurs have suffered major injuries to their stars all season, particularly their ace forward Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has played only nine games this season, while nursing an injured quad. The Warriors swept the Spurs last year in the West Finals, so they should have no problem dispatching them again.

The Timberwolves lost Jimmy Butler for the regular season, which was a major blow. This severely damaged their chances at a higher seeding. Butler is also their best defender and closer. The Wolves are 24th in defensive rating, according to NBA.com. The Warriors have beaten Minnesota 12 of the last 15 matchups in the regular season.

The Warriors ideally do not want to face the New Orleans Pelicans nor the Portland Trail Blazers in the second Round. Pelicans’ forward Anthony Davis is bidding his case for MVP these past few weeks. The Pelicans have won ten straight, with Davis leading the charge averaging 37.6 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, and 3 steals during this streak, according to ESPN.

All-Star guard Damian Lillard of the Blazers has also had stellar performances, as his team won nine straight. During their streak, Lillard is averaging 32.6 points, 6.4 assists, and 4.4 rebounds, while also scoring a total of 68 fourth quarter points, according to ESPN.

The Warriors want to avoid these red-hot opponents. Having to deal with MVP candidates early on would be exhausting. This roadmap is the Warriors’ easiest way to the Finals this year. However, with the standings in the West changing daily, the matchups aren’t set in stone yet. As the difficulty increases each round, it is ideal to not face a tough opponent in the early rounds.

It seems inevitable, barring injury, that the Warriors and Rockets will meet in the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets have won 17 straight games, and are showing the Warriors they have a great shot at dethroning them. They have beaten the Dubs two out of three matchups this season. Home court advantage is going to be the difference in how long this series goes.

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These are the Warriors’ ideal opponents to face in the playoffs