On any normal night, a game in which the Golden State Warriors trailed by as many as 30 and lost by 15 would be a cause for concern.
But on the last night of the season, a 132-117 loss to the second-to-last-place Memphis Grizzlies means nothing as the Warriors were firmly committed to resting their stars for the postseason. After the conclusion of Wednesday night’s games, Golden State found out just who they’d face in the first round: the Los Angeles Clippers.
“It’s a good matchup for us geographically. That matters,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “But it’s a hell of an opponent … We’re going to have to work.”
Before Golden State were able to set their sights on the playoffs, however, they first had to finish out their 82nd game of the regular season. After resting forward Kevin Durant and shooting guard Klay Thompson on Tuesday night, the pair were back on the floor, while Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins and Stephen Curry — who suffered a right foot sprain the previous night — were sidelined instead for rest.
In the first half, the Warriors allowed Memphis — who entered the game as the lowest scoring team in the league — to put up 86 points on 61% shooting from the floor, hitting a season-high 14 first-half 3-pointers. Also in the first half, Durant also picked up his 16th technical foul of the season after bumping into an official while heading to the scorers table.
“I was going to wipe my feet off and he thought I was following him to the scorer’s table,” Durant said. “Just miscommunication. We talked about it and he said he was going to send it in to the league to get that rescinded.”
Under normal circumstances, Durant would be suspended one game, but even if the foul stands, he would not miss Game 1 against the Clippers, because the foul number resets in the playoffs.
Durant and Thompson finished the first half with 21 and 19 points respectively but neither saw the floor after halftime.
The Warriors reserves would finish the the game for Golden State as Quinn Cook, Jordan Bell, Marcus Derrickson and Damion Lee all finished with double digit scoring totals.
While Golden State took their final loss of the regular season, they would wind up catching a break from a team three states away in the Lone Star State: The San Antonio Spurs captured their 48th win of the season by beating the Dallas Mavericks, 105-94. Combined with an Oklahoma City win over the Milwaukee Bucks, that locked the Clippers into the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Durant said on the matchup shortly after the game. “I know it’s a 1-8 series but they have a lot of talent that know how to play in the playoffs … We’re looking forward to preparing for this team.”
Over the last four seasons, the Warriors own a 14-2 regular season record against the Clippers. One of Golden State’s two losses against Los Angeles, however, came this season, in a 121-116 overtime loss at Staples Center. That game was infamously overshadowed by an on-court spat between Durant and Green.
The pair engaged in a shouting match, which carried over into the locker room and resulted in a tender locker room situation for several weeks following the altercation.
In the next two games, Golden State was able to squeeze out a pair of victories, but not without a fight from the Clippers, who lost by a combined margin of 10 points, before a blowout in the final regular-season bow at Oracle Arena.
“They’ve got an all-world scorer in Lou Williams who can get it going at any time of the game,” Durant said when asked what challenges Los Angeles presents. “Then you have [Danilo] Gallinari who can go do the same.
“Then you’ve got wing players like [Landry] Shamet and Wilson Chandler, guys who can come in there and give you problems in the playoffs during a stretch. Then they have another big like Ivica Zubac so they’ve got a nice team.”
The last time the Warriors faced the Clippers in the postseason was in the first round of the 2013-14 NBA playoffs. Golden State fell in a seven-game series that was marred by the racially-charged exit of the Clippers disgraced, former owner Donald Sterling.
The end of that series was also the end of the Mark Jackson era for Golden State, as the former head coach was fired shortly after.
This time around, the Warriors, who have since won a trio of NBA championships, are the heavy favorites and will look to embark on another long postseason run.
“We’re all happy. This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Thompson said. “We know what’s at stake. It’s just pure excitement. Can’t wait to get there.”
Saturday, April 13, 5 p.m. @ Golden State on ABC
Monday, April 15, 7:30 p.m. @ Golden State on TNT
Thursday, April 18, 7:30 p.m. @ Los Angeles on TNT
Sunday, April 21, 1:30 p.m. @ Los Angeles on ABC
Wednesday, April 24, TBD @ Golden State *
Friday, April 26, TBD @ Los Angeles*
Sunday, April 28, TBD @ GoldenState*
* = If Necessary