By: Grant Pomatto
Once upon a time, the Western Conference seemed to be set in stone. The Golden State Warriors were well on their way to wrapping up the No. 1 seed for third season in a row. Then the Warriors dropped a 103-102 decision to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, and now everything looks just a little bit murkier.
I guess it all started on February 28 when Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat shoved Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia into Kevin Durant’s left knee in D.C. With another frenzied NBA Friday in the books, the race for the West’s top spot looks like anything but a foregone conclusion. Before Durant went down, the Warriors had gone an NBA-record 146 games without losing consecutive contests. Since then they’ve dropped back-to-back outings twice in less than two weeks to see their once-commanding grip on the No. 1 spot whittled down to 1.5 games.
Under normal circumstances, that rough patch would leave Golden State in a tough spot heading into Saturday’s showdown against the Spurs. Leonard’s absence for Saturday’s showdown appeared to give the Warriors some breathing room, until Steve Kerr decided he was going to rest his four most important remaining players (Draymond, Steph, Klay, and Andre).
Honestly, it’s a toss-up to see which team will actually come out of the Western Conference as the top seed. I would like to say that Golden State has the best chances to survive the blood bath that we are going to experience the next couple of weeks. However, I really like San Antonio. Nobody ever talks about them, but somehow they seem to always find themselves at the top of the standings all the time.
With Kawhi Leonard at the helm of it all, it’s tough to not like this team right now. Sure Kawhi is out with a concussion and in protocol right now, but he is averaging 26.2ppg in just 33 minutes every night. He also is distributing the ball better than he has in his previous season. That may have to do with the fact that he now has two premier big men in the post with LaMarcus Alrdidge and Pau Gasol. Not to mention that Kawhi is having his best offensive year in his NBA career but also will probably receive defensive player of the year for the third straight time.
If no other injuries persist on the team and they all stay healthy whenever Kawhi returns to the team, I think that they take the number 1 seed from the Warriors this season, and likely go on their way to the NBA championship as well. I don’t like the team that the Warriors have out there right now and when Durant comes back from his injury, if he comes back, I think that the team won’t be able to find their rhythm.
Saturday’s game won’t be a sure thing if one team wins or the other because both teams will probably sit their main players and you won’t get a good sense as to where these two teams end up at the end of the year.
There is still three weeks left to be played before the playoffs. Who knows the outcome? No one does. We just have to sit back and let the battle play out.