Liotta: Getting down to playoff nitty gritty

A week into April, and the Warriors’ most critical body of basketball work this season is yet to come. With all the games they’ve already won, who would have thought it would come down to this?

By Sunday, the three-way battle for the Western Conference’s final two playoff berths will hang in a balance that will be swayed by the Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets.

Any way you look at it, this race figures to be a photo finish. And, on paper at least, things stack up about as well as they can for the Warriors to be right there at the wire.

Going into Friday’s action, the Mavericks had a one-game lead over the Nuggets and a two-game lead over the Warriors.

Big advantage, Mavs. Slight advantage, Nuggets.

However, on the home-away meter, the Warriors play four of their final five games at home — including Thursday’s showdown with the Nuggets at Oracle Arena. The Mavericks face three home games and two road games, the Nuggets two home games and three road games.

Advantage, Warriors.

In the degree-of-difficulty department, the Nuggets have it the toughest. The opponents in their last five games boast a combined 188-189 record, and they will face two 50-win teams — Utah and Houston — in addition to that game with the Warriors.

The Mavs’ last five opponents check in with a combined record of 174-202, including two games against 50-win teams — Utah and New Orleans.

The Warriors’ last five opponents hold a combined 171-205 record, and the only 50-win team remaining is Phoenix.

Another slight advantage to the Warriors.

The obvious point? The Warriors have to win Thursday’s game against the Nuggets. Have to. Can’t see how they can spot the Nuggets another game advantage.

If the Warriors emerge from this weekend in the same shape they went into Friday’s action, they really ought to pull out one of the two playoff berths.

Somehow, with all the drama this season has contained up to this point, it figures the climax to it all should be one for the history books. Let the nail biting begin.

Random thought:

» Could this season have started any worse for Giants fans?

The first time the Giants try playing small ball, Dave Roberts is thrown out trying to steal. The first time Barry Zito pitches an inning, he gets shelled. The first time Matt Cain pitches great, he gets no run support, and the bullpen loses the game.

This is a team that looks like it can’t hit, can’t pitch and can’t field, and it looks as if the Giants will test the baseball axiom that “every team wins 60 and loses 60. It’s the other 42 games that decide a season.” The Giants may not win 60 games.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.

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