Golden State Warriors aiming to advance in NBA Cup as key player returns

Minnesota Timberwolves v Golden State Warriors
Minnesota Timberwolves v Golden State Warriors / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

The Golden State Warriors improved to 2-1 in the In-Season Tournament on Friday, squeaking by the San Antonio Spurs 118-112. Now, they face a win-or-stay-home matchup against a familiar foe for a spot in the knockout rounds.

The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings will revive their budding west coast rivalry as Draymond Green returns from a five-game suspension with heavy In-Season Tournament implications on the line.

After three tournament games, the Warriors trail only the 3-0 Kings in the West Group C, while the Minnesota Timberwolves also sit at 2-1. Golden State can secure a spot in the quarterfinals with a win and a Minnesota Timberwolves loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder — though a Wolves win would complicate things as the group winner would have to be determined by point differential.

Nevertheless, Tuesday's contest is an important one for the Warriors, who've dropped eight of their last eleven games. Not only do they have an opportunity to advance in the inaugural In-Season Tournament, but they can also clinch the season series against Sacramento, which could prove a deciding factor at the end of the regular season when playoff seeds are being settled.

With Draymond Green set to return from suspension, the Warriors' defense will receive a proverbial shot in the arm ahead of a crucial matchup with the Kings, who continue to employ one of the best offenses in the association.

Domantas Sabonis, Draymond Green
Golden State Warriors' forward Draymond Green will return to face the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

Led by De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento's high-powered attack causes a litany of problems for defenses that are ill-equipped to deal with their player and ball movement -- which Green will certainly help to mitigate.

To nobody's surprise, the Warriors have sorely missed their defensive ace as they struggled to contain the more athletic teams like the Timberwolves, while squads like the Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder punished them at the point of attack.

Steve Kerr has had to rely on Dario Saric and Kevon Looney more than usual in Green's absence, and while neither are poor individual defenders, they simply cannot imitate what Draymond does on that end of the floor, as very few can.

Kerr addressed Green's status on Friday, noting that the 32-year-old is on track to play his normal minutes in Tuesday's clash against the Kings

"“He's been working hard with Rick. He traveled to Phoenix with us, played 3-on-3, I believe he scrimmaged today -- I'm not positive about that. But he's been really putting a ton of work in, so hopefully he'll be fine and ready to play a lot of minutes on Tuesday," Kerr said."

Golden State will look to stay in the win column and keep their In-Season Tournament hopes alive as they face the Kings at Golden 1 Center on Tuesday at 7 pm PT.