Warriors’ playoff hopes tenuous as red-hot Rockets surge

Warriors’ playoff hopes tenuous as red-hot Rockets surge originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The Warriors have spent the past month or so talking about their belief that they could make a major move up in the Western Conference standings, possibly getting as high as a No. 6 or No. 7 seed.

As it stands now, however, Golden State’s primary concern has to be just making it to the NBA playoffs, period, after the team’s 114-110 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday at Target Center. The Warriors’ hold on the 10th and final spot in the West is tenuous at best, with the suddenly red-hot Houston Rockets sitting one game back.

It’s a position few saw coming for the four-time NBA champions, but one in which Golden State is firmly entrenched – a fringe team trying to hold on by a thread as each loss pushes them closer and closer to elimination.

“We’re surprised that we’re here, but we still feel like we’re capable of being anybody,” Stephen Curry told reporters after Sunday’s loss, trying to keep a positive outlook. “It’s a very competitive landscape and it’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out, but we want to be in that fight.”

It definitely won’t be easy.

The West is more top-heavy than it has been in recent seasons, with six teams guaranteed of finishing with a record above .500.

The Warriors, at 36-34, need to win at least half of their final 12 regular-season games to join that group. The last time they won more than five games of a 12-game stretch was when they went 8-4 from Feb. 15 to March 11.

So, the possibility of salvaging the season and making the playoffs is still out there.

But judging by the Warriors’ last two games, those hopes are slim at best. It might be easy for someone to win the Mega Millions lottery estimated to be worth more than $1 billion than it is for the Warriors to get into the postseason.

“We lose a lot of games we should win,” Draymond Green said. “In this league, you have to win the games [that] you’re supposed to win and steal a few that you’re not supposed to win. But if you lose the ones you’re supposed to win, you’re in for a long year.”

Even though Minnesota is third in the West, Green felt that Sunday’s game was one the Warriors should have won.

Two days after a complete disaster in losing to the Indiana Pacers, Golden State came out strong against the Timberwolves and played with a significantly higher level of energy, both offensively and defensively.

They weren’t able to sustain that the entire game, however, surrendering 68 points and wilting in the second half.

Coach Steve Kerr, who has tried to remain positive even as the season started spiraling, said he was much more pleased with the way the Warriors played in the loss to Minnesota as opposed what he saw against Indiana.

“The habits were much improved tonight, the defensive focus, the energy,” Kerr said. “I’m confident if we compete and play like that in these last 12 games that we’re going to put ourselves in position to do something.”

Curry agreed, but with the results being the same – a frustrating and potentially devastating L – the Warriors need more.

“The NBA is such a weird league. It just takes one little spark to get yourself going,” Curry said. “Every team goes through it in a season. You see what Houston’s doing right now. They got one little spark and they ran off whatever it is, eight, nine in a row. We’re capable of doing it until we run out of games. That’s the mindset.”

The Rockets definitely did take their spark and run with it. Houston has won eight straight and nine of 10 heading into Monday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

That, coupled with the Warriors’ struggles to close teams out, has thrust the Rockets right back into the playoff conversation.

The Warriors, who play at Houston on April 4, also still are in the chat about playoffs, but it’s getting more difficult for them to make a legitimate argument when the losses keep piling up.

“When you have to win and you don’t, it sucks,” Green said. “In order to win, you have to build good habits. I don’t think we have great habits. Until you play with the great habits at all times, you lose.”

Asked whether he’s keeping an eye on the standings and what the Rockets are doing, Green responded emphatically.

“I don’t give a damn about the Rockets,” he said.

That’s probably a good thing. The Warriors’ only concerns right now should be themselves and how to fix what’s not working.

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