OAKLAND — The Warriors coaching staff got together to watch a little TV on Wednesday. No, it wasn’t the Andre the Giant documentary on HBO. They had some basketball games to monitor. The race for the NBA’s 2018 Western Conference playoff berths and seedings had become a mad sprint to the finish, and Steve Kerr and his staff weren’t going to miss it.
Power forward Draymond Green tuned in, too.
“Yes, it was fun!” Green said Thursday after an extra-long practice at the Warriors’ downtown facility.
But the Tetris-like playoff possibilities made his head hurt. “They gave me this sheet,” Green said. “And it was like full of scenarios of people we could play. It was too much. I just enjoyed the games.”
He added: “It didn’t have nothing to do with who we was gonna play.”
Kerr probably felt otherwise. For this team, the intrigue in regular-season-ending games like Denver-at-Minnesota and Utah-and-Portland primarily flowed from one question: Whom would the Warriors be playing in Round 1?
When the dust settled and the sneakers had stopped squeaking, they got their answer. They’ll be going against Kerr’s mentor, Gregg Popovich, and his San Antonio Spurs.
This has been a trying season for the Warriors. They have been hit by waves of injuries. The most significant of them, a series of knee and ankle twists by two-time MVP Stephen Curry, has yet to be resolved. And it isn’t just the medical issues. Some of the Warriors veterans, like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, seemed to age before our eyes this year. And as the regular season wound down, a general malaise settled onto the team. They looked like the world champion Warriors only in intermittent bursts.
Even if much of this adversity was self-wrought, it was still a trial. The Warriors, gilded as they have been under Kerr, were starved for good news. And it came around 7:30 Wednesday evening, when the Spurs officially nestled into the No. 7 seed.
No one in the building would ever admit it, but Kerr and his men probably popped a few cold ones and clinked bottles when the bracket filled out. Because they couldn’t have hoped for a more advantageous opponent than the Spurs.
In fact, if the Warriors were playing any of the other six Western Conference playoff teams, this would be a much different column. No, scratch that. You have to add even the Nuggets, who were eliminated from the fun when they lost to the Timberwolves in overtime Wednesday.
If Houston, Portland, Oklahoma City, Utah, New Orleans, Minnesota or Denver were coming to Oracle Arena on Saturday, I’d be writing about how vulnerable the Warriors are. How they limped down the home stretch, showing little passion or cohesion on the court. How you don’t just turn intensity up and down like a thermostat, even when you’re the three-time defending champions of the West. How this first-round series would be, at very least, a withering battle.
But nope, it’s the Spurs. The one team west of the Mississippi that the Warriors should be able to handle without anxiety.
Consider the Warriors’ maddening performance over the past month, as they closed their weird regular season with 10 losses in their final 17 games. They lost at Portland by 17 points, to Utah by 19, to Indiana by 11, then at Indiana by 20, a game that inspired Kerr to label his players’ efforts “pathetic.” Motivated by the harsh words, the Warriors lost their next game, at home to New Orleans, by only six points. They finished with a remarkable 40-point loss at Utah in which All-Stars Green, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all started.