Of the three teams fighting for the final two positions in the Western Conference playoff race, it’s the one with the longest postseason drought that has the most momentum.
Golden State hosts the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, hoping to continue its recent surge as it tries to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
The Warriors (39-40) are in a tie for the eighth seed in the West with the Los Angeles Clippers, who host Sacramento on Sunday. Those teams are a half-game behind the seventh-place Lakers, who host Seattle.
“We’ll probably have to win out to have a chance,” Warriors coach Don Nelson said following the team’s 125-108 win over the Kings on Friday. “This was the first step, and we’ve got three more steps to go.”
The Clippers and Warriors split four regular-season meetings, meaning if the teams end with the same record, the tiebreaker would be determined by division records. The Clippers are 7-7 against the Pacific while the Warriors are 6-10.
Golden State, however, is clearly the hottest of the West teams still trying to make the playoffs. The Warriors are 13-5 since March 5 while averaging 110.4 points, and that average is up to 117.4 over the past seven games as the team has gone 6-1.
The red-hot offense accounted for 74 first-half points on Friday against the Kings, and a 21-point lead at the break. Sacramento cut that lead to seven by the end of the third quarter, but the Warriors held the Kings to 15 points in the fourth.
“Everybody has to know there’s a sense of urgency,” said Davis, who turned 28 on Friday. “We get into each other, but at the same time, we’re picking each other up.”
The Warriors haven’t made the playoffs since 1993-94, also the last season they finished with a winning record (50-32). With a victory Sunday, Golden State would reach the .500 mark for the first time since Jan. 7 when it was 18-18.
Following Sunday, the Warriors close their home schedule on Tuesday against Dallas before traveling to Portland to end the regular season.
Golden State and Minnesota (32-47) have split two meetings this season, with each winning at home. The Warriors won 106-86 on March 16 behind Monta Ellis’ 24 points.
Kevin Garnett had a triple-double in Minnesota’s 121-93 win over Golden State on Feb. 7, but he’s missed the last two games and is sidelined indefinitely with an injured right quadriceps.
Minnesota has just three games left, but won’t confirm it has shut Garnett down for the season. The Timberwolves denied they are trying to tank the season in hopes of holding on to their draft pick.
If Minnesota doesn’t have a pick in the top 10 of the draft, it would have to give its selection to the Clippers as part of a trade two years ago.
“People can think however they want to think,” said Mike James, who led the team with 23 points in Friday’s 110-91 loss to San Antonio. “All we’ve got to do is keep working. … We want to play hard and play together and try to win games.”
The Timberwolves have lost four straight and eight of 10. They are 2-5 in their last seven trips to Oracle Arena.