What an unfortunate twist of fate for the Golden State Warriors the past couple of days. After all, when was the last time that the Warriors played on national television on consecutive nights?
Most teams would be honored by that twist of fate with their schedule, especially those that are not so used to the limelight. The only times that Golden State appears on national TV are in blooper reels from the previous night's lowlights, or as the whipping-boy opponents of the elite teams in the NBA.
With regards to the back-to-back games on Wednesday night and Thursday night, the latter applied.
In Wednesday's contest against the Portland Trail Blazers, the visiting Dubs were torched, 118-110. The very next evening, back in Oakland against the Dallas Mavericks, the house guests came out on top, 112-103. It was Golden State's third consecutive defeat and, more importantly, their 10th loss in the last 12 games.
For any other team in the league, such ineptness would not be tolerated by their followers. There would be thunderous cynicism permeating the audience—assuming fans even a put forth the effort to show up to games.
But Golden State's fan base is an enigmatic lot. The are extremely dedicated through all the ups and downs and further-downs. This season, Golden State averages 18,950 fans per home game—ninth-best in the league. Despite the Warriors' ugly record (22-36 following Thursday's defeat), 17,929 people showed up for the inevitable loss to Dallas.
Which is exactly what Golden State was hoping for.
Two words: tank watch.
Right now, Golden State is at risk of losing its potential lottery pick this summer if it happens to win enough games and not end up with one of the league's seven worst records. They currently are tied with the Detroit Pistons for the eighth-worst record in the NBA. They need to continue to lose and have a couple other teams win a few games in order to secure their spot in the lottery.
Yes, the Warriors are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock is what's in the best interest of the team for their short-term future (a potentially high lottery pick.) The hard place is that little thing called competitiveness. After all, what team wants to lose? Even if it's in the best interest of the franchise, nobody likes the feeling of losing night in and night out.
But that's the direction the Warriors are headed, and their fans can't be more excited. This season has been earmarked with woe and agony around every corner. Trades, injuries, forgettable performances have turned a promising 2011-2012 campaign into deja vu for Warrior Nation. Yet a high draft pick could reinvigorate the faithful.
By losing, Warriors fans might feel like they've won.
That's the least Golden State can do for its fan base. If the team is going to be perennial losers, which they've done 18 out of the last 19 seasons by missing the playoffs, then they might as well lose and lose at all costs this season in order to keep their lottery pick. Lose as many games as possible.
Thursday's defeat was the next step in accomplishing that goal. Dallas jumped out to a 14-point halftime lead, and they never looked back. The Dubs put up a formidable effort, led by David Lee's 30 points and rookie Klay Thompson's 24, but ultimately the veteran Mavs were just toying with the lowly Warriors.
It has been a tough go for the Warriors in the second half of the season. They've gone 5-15 since trading Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks. Mired with underwhelming seasonal performances by two of their starters (Dorell Wright and Andris Biedrins), injuries to their starting point guard (Stephen Curry) and trades for injured players (Andrew Bogut), the team probably wished the lockout-shortened season was even shorter.
But for Warriors fans, that would not be good enough—or bad enough. Had the season already closed, by virtue of a better-than-seventh-worst record in the league, Golden State would not have a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft, sending it as compensation for a previous trade to the Utah Jazz. What a waste that would be for Warriors fans.
Thus, tank mode must be be in full effect. Head coach Mark Jackson must do whatever it takes to make that happen. Play Biedrins 40 minutes (if he doesn't foul out first). Tell Wright to shoot more.
The past two games may have been national embarrassments, but they were paramount to a much larger goal. Golden State is 0-6 in nationally televised games this season.
There are eight more very losable games remaining. The Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Hornets are the only two opponents with sub-.500 records left on the schedule. If the Warriors win any of their remaining games, it would be a detriment to their lottery status.
Golden State must continue to tank, and tank hard.
Keep it up, Warriors. Er, rather, keep it down.
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