Programming note: Grizzlies-Warriors coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.
Never mind the Sharks in the playoffs and the renewal of their blood feud with the Los Angeles Kings, who stole and ate their souls two years ago.
Never mind the 49ers, who have made playing chicken with Colin Kaepernick a matter of daily theatre.
Never mind the Raiders, whose owner just booked himself a date with the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee on April 28, to discuss a possible stadium to house the children in Las Vegas.
Never mind the Giants and A’s, who lead their divisions (well, if you don’t count the ninth inning of last night’s Los Angeles-Oakland game) and are headed for . . . well, nothing of note since it’s still only the second week of the season.
Consider instead that these days are all things Warriors, and the news from Tuesday night only mildly clarifying. But at least come Thursday, the 73 wins they think will define them will be an irrelevance.
They await the results of four games to understand their playoff fate, which despite what America wants to believe right now is what they’re actually in this for. If Houston beats Sacramento at home (a dodgy proposition because it’s Houston and Sacramento, two of the wackiest ships in this man’s navy), the Warriors get the Rockets. If the Rockets lose and Utah beats Team Kobe (and God only knows what the Lakers will be like), it’s Utah.
Neither team is likely to do much damage to the juggernaut that is HMS Warrior, but at least it’s a new vista for a team that has been sucked into the vortex of 73 for far too long. The decision to grind through the end of the season rather than to take their hand ride to the top seed is one that will debated every time they lose a game from Thursday on, but they may not lose many more and have a new parade to book. After all, they blew through last year’s postseason at 16-5, one game from tying the 4x4 record.
The second round is only slightly less settled, where Portland has to beat Denver to lock up the five-seed and a first-round date with the Los Angeles Clippers, the team with the best record of success against the Warriors over the past three seasons. If the Blazers somehow lose, though, and Dallas beats the maybe-resting/maybe-testing San Antonii, the Clippers play the Mavs. Both Dallas and Portland beat the Warriors once, but got their heads flattened in the other meetings, so again an upset here would qualify as massive.
As for Memphis, the presumptive sacrificial lamb tonight in Oakland, the Grizzlies could piss off the nation and move out of a first-round series with the Spurs by winning while Dallas loses. Frankly, there is no more powerful motivation on earth than the former, and no more gratifying end to a bizarre Grizz season than the latter.
So with five possibilities for the first two rounds still before them, the Warriors’ path is, at least for the moment, a muddled one. But the thing about their path is, it is also clearer than anyone else’s. Their job is to stay the course. Everyone else has to either figure a way to beat the nearly-unbeatable, die in the attempt, or miss altogether, which would offer remarkably little solace to any of them.
The Warriors, you see, committed with the aid and abettance of the Spurs a crime against regular season basketball by reducing 1,230 games to a two-horse race in which one horse led wire to wire. The 2015 Warriors didn’t manage that even last year, spotting Houston and then Memphis the early lead all the way until December 3 — a shameful lapse people conveniently forget now that Golden State is truly that.
But once tonight is over, they’ll know what needs to be done with greater clarity and less angst. Tonight, they chase a ghost and try to beat it with a number. Tomorrow, the actual meaningful work begins.