Warriors Games That Will Determine 2021 NBA Playoff Seeding

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 15, 2021

Warriors Games That Will Determine 2021 NBA Playoff Seeding

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Despite the best efforts of should-be NBA MVP candidate Stephen Curry and nightly triple-double threat Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors are scrambling to keep their playoff hopes alive.

    The good news is they have three wins to show for their past four games, including triumphs over the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets. The less-than-ideal news is this stretch was preceded by seven losses in eight games.

    The Klay Thompson-less Warriors are consistently inconsistent, which will have them fighting until the end for even a Play-In Tournament ticket. While every game is critical—Golden State is just a game up on the 11th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans—the following three outings will have a major impact on this team's postseason hopes and positioning.

Tuesday, April 27: Vs. Dallas Mavericks

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    It would take a dramatic climb to get up to No. 7, but when it's Chef Curry in the kitchen, anything feels possible.

    That's the likely ceiling for Golden State's seeding, and it will need to produce some unexpected wins to make that happen. Cooling down the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks and offensive maestro Luka Doncic would be that kind of victory.

    The sides have met twice this season, and both games became offense-only competitions. The Warriors drew first blood when they popped for a season-high 147 points (featuring an out-of-nowhere 40-spot from Kelly Oubre Jr.) in a 31-point win on Feb. 4. Two nights later, the Mavs evened the score with a 134-132 win that featured 99 points from Curry (57)  and Doncic (42).

    When Curry is cooking, he has the firepower to take down anyone. For the Warriors to climb up to seven, they will need more magic from the two-time MVP.

Tuesday, May 4: At New Orleans Pelicans

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    With the Sacramento Kings free-falling, the Warriors only have one real threat to push them out of the playoffs—but it's a big one.

    The 11th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans are just a game back of the Dubs, and they just might sprint to the finish line behind all-galaxy superstar Zion Williamson.

    The sophomore has been unstoppable for much of this season, but his recent work is ridiculous. He has scored at least 30 points in seven of his past 10 contests, averaging 31.7 points on 62.8 percent shooting, plus 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists during this stretch.

    The Warriors and Pelicans will tussle three times in May, and this game will be the second of a back-to-back set in the Big Easy. There's a non-zero chance that the winner of this series makes the playoffs while the loser gets left out.

Sunday, May 16: Vs. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Assuming the Mavericks are a lock, the West will have four teams fighting for three spots. The Memphis Grizzlies are currently atop that group, which could make for a fascinating finale when these clubs close out the campaign in California.

    With Taylor Jenkins at the helm, the Grizzlies have combined some grit-and-grind nastiness with an abundance of electricity provided by Ja Morant. They will add another dynamic element soon, as building-block big man Jaren Jackson Jr. is nearing his return from the knee injury that has kept him sidelined all season.

    In March, the two sides split a back-to-back set in Memphis. The Warriors were without Curry in both contests. Andrew Wiggins masked the absence in the first game with a season-high 40 points. But Golden State couldn't match Memphis' scoring depth in the second, as six Grizzlies scored between 13 and 19 points.

    If there are playoff stakes tied to this tilt, it should be one to remember.