As the Golden State Warriors trudge along toward the end of the 2011-2012 NBA season, they come to a terribly difficult fork in the road, tussling between playing each remaining game with the desire to win or instead choosing to lose because they need to.
It's an incredibly taxing mind twist of playing competitively enough to show effort to try to win basketball games while simultaneously lacking the right amount of talent to actually do so.
No member of the Warriors organization is willing to admit that losing on purpose is in fact the team's desired goal—after all, winning is everything. But with the cards stacked the way the are, it's a daunting task for Golden State to convince anybody else otherwise.
Being part of the overly competitive Western Conference makes their job that much more difficult. Even if they truly played to win, they almost certainly couldn't—not with the monstrous list of opponents in the last month of their schedule.
And a team as undermanned as Golden State has no chance against the Mavs on Friday night, in Dallas. After all, the Mavericks already waxed the Warriors a week ago.
Although, per usual, the Dubs put up a formidable fight on Friday. The Warriors actually only trailed by one point at halftime, 50-49, and were within striking distance throughout the majority of the third quarter.
But a Dallas team that boasts savvy veterans Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and Vince Carter among others were no match for a Warriors squad featuring five rookies—four of which are in the starting lineup. In the end, the Mavericks pulled away with the swiftest of ease, winning 104-94, handing the Dubs their seventh straight defeat.
The losing streak is important for Golden State, as the team aims to retain the highest lottery pick possible in this May's NBA draft. The opposing forces collide: The further they fall in the loss column this season, the higher their draft pick—or at least the greater their odds of them keeping their lottery pick.
After Friday night's schedule, the Warriors sit with the eighth-worst record in the league, a half-game ahead of both the New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors, and only half a game behind the Detroit Pistons. Ideally, one of those teams will need another win or two; or, better, a couple of those teams will need one win. Fortunately for the Dubs, Toronto plays at Detroit on Sunday, and New Jersey plays at Toronto next Thursday, so one of those teams will each get a victory, even if they don't want to. Heck, Toronto could win twice.
What is your level of interest in the Warriors tanking?
Meanwhile, Friday's tilt with Dallas jump-started a back-to-back-to-back set for Golden State, as they next face the Houston Rockets on Saturday, followed by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. It's highly possible—almost automatic—that the Dubs will be swept this weekend, which would do wonders for the team's tanking goals.
Warriors Tank Watch is in high gear. The Warriors have four games left on their docket, with one of them against a team with a worse record than their own—the New Orleans Hornets (20-43). That contest will be the true test of Warriors Tank Watch.
The Hornets have a terrible—terrible—road record, 5-26, and the Warriors play better in their home confines at Oracle Arena. That April 24th matchup will truly be under the microscope. If Golden State wins, it might put a wrench in their tank plans.
However, if the Warriors are able to get swept this weekend, it might not matter too much. We'll have to wait and see.
Follow me on Twitter: @nathanieljue