It finally happened. The Golden State Warriors are a playoff team.
The euphoria that followed Tuesday’s playoff-clinching win over the Minnesota Timberwolves was catharsis for two decades of mostly terrible Golden State basketball. To be sure, ending a six-year playoff drought deserves some celebration. But as great as this squad is within the context of the franchise’s unremarkable track record, the 2012-13 Warriors are not particularly fast, they don’t outscore opponents by large margins and they can’t play effective defense with consistency. If recent history tells us anything, a true contender needs at least two of those three things to make a deep run in the NBA playoffs.
So, before we elevate our expectations and ghostride the bandwagon all over the Western Conference – a phrase I never thought I’d write and on second thought will never write again – I urge every Warriors fan to consider the following:
With three games remaining in the regular season, the Warriors could conceivably face the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers or Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. Their record against those five teams is far from stellar; Golden State went only 6-12 this year. With the lone exception of the Clippers, they also lost their regular season series against each of them.
If past performance is any indication of future performance, that track record doesn’t bode well for the Warriors’ first round chances. That being said, each of those Western Conference contenders have gone through their own peaks and valleys over the course of the season, and the teams Golden State faced early in the year may not be the same as those they face first-round matchup.
With that in mind, let’s run through how the Warriors would perform against each of the top five seeds in the Western Conference.
Note: Opponents are ranked from most favorable to least favorable: