Ranking the Warriors Best Possible Playoff Matchups
With only a dozen games left in the 2012-2013 regular season, the Golden State Warriors are in great shape to lock up just their second postseason berth in 19 seasons, barring a major collapse.
Bay Area fans have been patiently waiting for another playoff appearance since the magical "We Believe" run of 2007 and are ready for their team to be back in the spotlight.
Going into Saturday night's matchup against the Washington Wizards, the Warriors hold the no. 6 seed by half a game over of the Rockets. They are three games up on the Lakers and four-and-a-half games up on the Jazz, who sit in the No. 8 and 9 seeds, respectively.
There could still be a lot of movement in the seeding, as the Warriors play the Lakers twice and the Jazz once in their final 12 games, but realistically, the only seeds the Dubs could end up as are No. 6, 7 or 8.
Let's take a look at which of the five possible playoff opponents gives the Warriors their best chance at advancing to the second round.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Most Likely Scenario: No. 2 Oklahoma City vs. No. 7 Golden State
Record This Year: 2-1 OKC (with upcoming game @ GS on April 11)
Running into this athletic juggernaut in the first round of the playoffs would be a daunting task for the Warriors. Quite simply, there is nobody on the Dubs that could stop the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
While the Warriors did prove they can win against the Thunder at home on January 23, the playoffs are a whole different brand of basketball.
After losing in the NBA Finals last year, Durant and Co. will be on a mission to make it back for another shot and look to make quick work of whomever they face in the first round.
The size of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins would also present a major problem for the Warriors down low and on the boards. The Thunder just possess too lethal a combination of size and speed for Golden State to handle.
If the Warriors' raucous crowd did not propel them to a victory in this series, it could very easily be over in four.
4. San Antonio Spurs
Most Likely Scenario: No. 1 San Antonio vs. No. 8 Golden State
Record This Year: 2-1 SA (with upcoming game @GS on April 15)
The San Antonio Spurs rank just ahead of the Thunder on this list, but it is not by much as they present just as difficult of a matchup.
In one of the most memorable games of the year, the Warriors willed their way to an overtime victory over the Spurs at home on February 22. It hasn't come as easy on the road.
In a 104-93 loss last Wednesday in San Antonio, the Warriors failed to snap their road losing streak against the Spurs that extends 16 years back to 1997.
Gregg Popovich's systematic offense just creates nightmares for the Warriors defense.
However, the Thunder proved in last year's playoffs that a young, athletic team has what it takes to run them off the court.
The Warriors may be able to have success doing this in a game or two at home, but sustaining it through a whole series and winning in San Antonio seem highly unlikely.
While the Warriors proved in 2007 that a No. 8 seed taking down a No. 1 is not impossible, it would be nearly impossible to replicate that success against a seasoned team like the Spurs.
3. Memphis Grizzlies
Most Likely Scenario: No. 3 Memphis vs. No. 6 Golden State
Record This Year: 3-0 Memphis
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph present one of the toughest matchups for the Warriors in the entire league. Their size is a little too overwhelming for David Lee, and either one can dominate down low.
In addition to being 3-0 against the Warriors this season, the Grizzlies have won nine games in a row against Golden State. However, the teams are a little bit different now with the loss of Rudy Gay and the addition of a healthy Andrew Bogut.
If the Warriors were to have any shot in this series, Bogut's defense would be the main reason why. If he can control the Grizzlies frontcourt from dominating the glass and keep them from scoring inside, the Warriors may be able to beat them if their offense catches fire.
Without Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies lack a backcourt or wing player that can take over a game offensively. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson certainly have a scoring edge over Mike Conley and Tony Allen.
Dominant guard play and Bogut's defense are the biggest keys to success if the Dubs do run into the Grizzlies come playoff time.
2. Denver Nuggets
Most Likely Scenario: No. 3 Denver vs. No. 6 Golden State
Record This Year: 3-1 Denver
The Denver Nuggets have recently catapulted themselves into the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference standings with their unbelievable 14-game winning streak. Needless to say, they are red hot.
Not exactly the kind of team you want to run into in the playoffs, but they do not have the big size advantage that Memphis holds over Golden State. Denver relies on speed and running, something the Warriors can match.
While the Nuggets did take the season series 3-1, the Warriors completely gave one of those games away in an early double overtime loss on November 10.
All four of these games happened at the beginning of the season, but the Warriors proved that they can hang with and defeat this Nuggets team.
Denver has a very balanced offense, with six players averaging double figures.
One area that I believe would benefit the Warriors is that they would have the best player in this series. Ty Lawson has established himself as the leader of their team and been very impressive, but he has not played as well as Steph Curry this season.
The playoffs will tell us a lot about Curry, and it will be fun to see if he tries to take games over like he did in Davidson's run to the Elite Eight in 2008.
While the Nuggets would be a tough team to chase around for a seven-game series and are no question playing better than the Warriors right now, winning this series would not be out of the question for Golden State.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
Most Likely Scenario: No. 3 Los Angeles vs. No. 6 Golden State
Record This Year: 3-1 Golden State
This is the matchup everyone wants: The fans, the media and most likely the players as well.
For the Warriors to have the best shot at advancing to the second round of the playoffs, they need to hold on to the No. 6 seed and for the Clippers to take back the No. 3 seed.
Obviously, the 3-1 record this season speaks for itself, but the biggest thing about this matchup is that the Warriors are not scared of playing the Clippers in any way, shape or form. In fact, they relish it.
David Lee can go toe-to-toe with Griffin.
Steph Curry can hang right there with Chris Paul.
Bench players like Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Draymond Green would love the task of stopping "A Tribe Called Bench."
Without a doubt, the Clippers are the best matchup for this year's Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. But the Clippers still do have one of the best players on the planet in Paul, who is known to take his game to another level when the playoffs come around.
Stopping Paul and their athletic bigs would be difficult to say the least, but the Warriors would be up for the challenge.
These two teams go hand in hand with one another as two Pacific Division rivals that have just recently emerged out of years of irrelevancy.
It only seems right that we get the chance to see them battle in a tightly contested first-round matchup.
Who do you think gives the Warriors the best chance to win in the first round? How far can this team actually go? Please feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below.
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