Lakers or Blazers? Scenarios for Warriors' potential opponent originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Warriors know they will be in the play-in tournament, and that they'll be either the eighth or ninth seed. They cannot finish in seventh in the West, nor can they finish in 10th.
So, eighth or ninth it is. There's obviously a huge difference between those two possibilities, as the former would require Golden State to win only one game to advance through the play-in tournament, whereas the latter would require two victories.
Aside from that, the only thing that is left to be determined is which team the Warriors will face in the play-in. If they finish ninth, it'll almost certainly be the San Antonio Spurs, and the winner of that matchup would face the loser of the other play-in game with the No. 8 playoff seed in the West on the line.
If the Warriors finish the regular season in eighth place -- which they have the inside track to do after a thrilling come-from-behind win Tuesday night -- they could face one of three teams still mathematically capable of finishing in seventh.
One of those teams, the Dallas Mavericks, is far less likely than the other two, as they are the only team in that group that is a division champion.
So, really, it's going to be either the Portland Trail Blazers or Los Angeles Lakers that finishes in seventh. The Lakers (39-30) currently have the strongest odds of finishing seventh, as they're one game back of the Blazers (40-29), and Portland holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.
With the Lakers and Blazers both having only three games remaining, that doesn't leave a lot of time for Los Angeles to make up the necessary ground. That said, Portland has a significantly tougher slate of opponents, which could potentially open the door for the Lakers to leapfrog above them.
In order for that to happen, the Lakers must win at least two more games than the Blazers do the rest of the way. If Portland goes 0-3 or 1-2, that opens the door for Los Angeles. On the other hand, if the Blazers win at least twice, or the Lakers lose at least twice, the former will finish above the latter in the final standings.
The Blazers' remaining schedule consists of a road back-to-back against the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns before the season-finale at home against the Denver Nuggets. Those opponents have the best, second-best and fifth-best records in the league.
The Lakers' remaining schedule looks far less challenging. They'll host the cellar-dwelling Houston Rockets at home on Wednesday before finishing the regular season with a road back-to-back against the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans, the latter of which should be eliminated from postseason contention by then.
Oh, and then there's the factor of LeBron James, who is expected to return from an ankle injury for the Lakers' final three games.
If the Warriors finish eighth, they're going to face either the Lakers or the Blazers in the play-in. Though one currently is more likely than the other, it's looking like a toss-up.