Curry & Lee get emotional following clinching win
With four games remaining, the Warriors lead the Rockets by one game for the No. 6 seed. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Amidst the hugs, high fives and champagne showers that followed Tuesday's playoff-clinching win against Minnesota, Golden State hung on to something important: perspective.
All-star David Lee sat in front of his locker in the corner of the Warriors locker room, a bump swelling up on his forehead, and made it very clear that while the team was excited to check one goal off its list, it wasn't yet satisfied.
"Us celebrating tonight has nothing to do with relaxing," he said. "We’re very excited about reaching this next step as a franchise, but at no point does that mean that our business is taken care of."
No, the team immediately set its sights on the No. 6 seed.
"Obviously if you play whoever it is at three, statistics say that the better team is in the two spot," coach Mark Jackson said. "I don't know whether that's true or false or who will be there, but we want to wind up as the highest possible position that we can."
Translation: Denver is a much more desirable first-round matchup than either Oklahoma City or San Antonio.
Coincidentally, the Warriors host both the Thunder (Thursday) and Spurs (Monday) in the final four games of the season as they try to hold off surging Houston for the six spot.
Golden State won both of its previous matchups against the Western Conference's top two teams at Oracle Arena this year, but with the Thunder and Spurs still fighting for the No. 1 seed, both games figure to feature playoff-level intensity.
Following Thursday's game against the Thunder, the Warriors immediately turn around to play at the Los Angles Lakers, who are still fighting for the No. 8 spot, and finish the season at Portland on April 17.
Houston, which is a game back of Golden State, hosts Memphis on Friday and Sacramento on Sunday before finishing the season with road games at Phoenix (Monday) and the Lakers (Wednesday). Whatever the Rockets do down the stretch, Golden State needs to match or exceed to hang on to the six seed as Houston holds the tiebreaker as a result of taking the season series between the teams.
"Just because we made the playoffs, we don’t want that to be the only thing we accomplish this year," Stephen Curry said. "We have bigger dreams and bigger goals on the horizon."
He didn't lay out just what those might be, but it's a safe assumption that "be competitive in a first-round series loss" -- realistic as it may sound -- isn't a box the Warriors are waiting anxiously to put a check next to.