Warriors clinch NBA playoff spot for first time since 2018-19 season

Warriors clinch NBA playoff spot for first time since 2018-19 season

In a season full of ups and downs, the Warriors are back to where we’re used to seeing them: The NBA playoffs.

The Warriors on Saturday clinched a playoff spot for the first time since the 2018-19 season with their 111-107 win over the Utah Jazz at Chase Center. Golden State currently is the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and holds a one-game lead over the Dallas Mavericks. Utah now is three games behind the Warriors.

The Warriors’ clinched the playoff spot in dramatic fashion as they rallied from a 21-point deficit to stun the Jazz. Klay Thompson fueled the comeback with an electric fourth quarter.

The two-year layoff was the first time Golden State has missed the playoffs since the 2011-12 season, and the first time in Steve Kerr’s coaching career.

From the 2014-15 season through the 2018-19 season, the Warriors went to the NBA Finals in five straight years and took home three titles. But Kevin Durant tore his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the 2019 Finals against the Toronto Raptors, and Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6. That was just the start to the Warriors’ injury woes.

With Durant departing to the Brooklyn Nets in free agency and Thompson out for the year, the Warriors already faced an uphill battle in the 2019-20 season. Just four games into the season, Steph Curry broke his hand, played only one more game and the Warriors had the worst record in the NBA at 15-50.

Thompson missed a second straight campaign after tearing his Achilles right before last season was set to begin, and although Curry played like an MVP and set a new career-high of 32.0 points per game to lead the league in scoring for the second time, the Warriors failed to make the playoffs. They did make the inaugural play-in tournament, but despite heroic efforts from Curry, the Warriors came up short in both games.

Even without Thompson to start off this season, the Warriors came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Curry carried last season into this one, Draymond Green was playing like the Defensive Player of the Year again, Jordan Poole was enjoying his breakout in Year 3 and the front office could pat themselves on the back for their Andrew Wiggins trade, plus two lottery picks and free-agent signings.

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Then came the injury bug again.

Klay completed his two-and-a-half year comeback on Jan. 9, 2022, but Draymond was injured during a pregame workout, played seven seconds to honor his teammate and missed the next 30 games. Just one game after Green returned, Curry got hurt as well.

The Warriors’ Big Three of Curry, Thompson and Green have played 11 minutes together this season. Golden State has seen Steph, Klay, Draymond and Andre Iguodala miss extended period of times. James Wiseman, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft, won’t play one game this season after injuring his meniscus in his rookie year and dealing with setbacks this season, and key players like Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. have missed a handful of games as well.

Kerr has said this season is unlike any he has dealt with in the past — as a coach or player. Now, he and the Warriors are back in the playoffs after a rocky regular season, and will again hunt another championship to bring home.

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