MIAMI — The Golden State Warriors learned the identity of their first-round playoff opponent after the NBA regular season ended Wednesday, and it’s a familiar foe.
Golden State, the second seed in the Western Conference, will host the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs this weekend for the beginning of their best-of-seven series.
The two teams played in the West finals last season, and the Spurs were up by 23 points when Kawhi Leonard left in the third quarter after getting injured on a play where he tried a jumper and Warriors center Zaza Pachulia closed out aggressively.
Leonard got hurt when he stepped on Pachulia on the landing; he and the Spurs haven’t been the same since. Leonard never returned to that series, and played in only nine games for the Spurs this season.
“There is no pressure on us,” Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge said.
There is on Golden State.
The Warriors are trying for a third title in four seasons, and will play this first round more than likely without Stephen Curry while he continues recovering from a knee injury. Golden State went 7-10 in its final 17 games, and clearly sputtered across the finish line.
But the records all reset now, and the Warriors have been waiting to get the postseason started.
“It’ll be our first meaningful game in about a month,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Looking forward to that.”
Across the league, the regular season ended with a flourish. Wednesday’s final night was well beyond dramatic — an overtime game between Minnesota and Denver to decide the last berth, another overtime game between Miami and Toronto to determine some East fates, a 46-point first quarter by Philadelphia , an absurd 20-rebound, 19-assist night from Russell Westbrook.
And now, the best time of the NBA year is finally here.
With Golden State and Cleveland — who’ve met in the last three NBA Finals — not exactly looking like the overwhelming favorites the league has come to expect, a fourth consecutive Warriors-Cavs matchup is no guarantee.
The first-round matchups start Saturday or Sunday, beginning a two-month grind following the six-month regular season.
“I feel pretty ready,” Toronto guard Kyle Lowry said. “We’re ready to go.”
So are 15 other teams.
Start with the East pairings: Lowry and the top-seeded Raptors play No. 8 Washington, No. 2 Boston faces No. 7 Milwaukee, No. 3 Philadelphia gets No. 6 Miami and No. 4 Cleveland opens against No. 5 Indiana, a surprise team at the start of the season and one that isn’t a surprise anymore.
“We’re one of 16 teams that have a chance to win a championship,” The Cavs’ LeBron James said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Out West, it’s No. 1 Houston meeting No. 8 Minnesota — which earned its berth by topping Denver in the NBA’s first win-and-get-in, lose-and-go-home regular-season finale in 21 years. No. 3 Portland drew No. 6 New Orleans and No. 4 Oklahoma City opens against No. 5 Utah.