Monitoring the bubble of the NBA Western Conference's playoff picture is an exercise in volatility.
One day, a superstar-led team looks doomed to drop into the play-in tournament, and another looks on the verge of missing the postseason entirely. A week and a reversal of fortune later, those teams are in a much better position, with competitors taking their places.
The Warriors, owners of the Western Conference's eighth-best record (34-33) entering Friday, know this all too well. A week ago, they were in 10th place with the New Orleans Pelicans nipping at their heels. Now, they have a half-game lead on the ninth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
With all that in mind, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Friday in an interview with 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto & Kolsky" that Golden State hasn't started to prepare for any potential play-in opponents.
"[There's] still a lot that can happen. If we take care of business, we can put ourselves in the best possible spot, which would be seventh or eighth -- more likely eighth, given where the seventh team is right now. It would take almost a miracle to get there. But that's the whole focus, is getting to a spot where we'd have to only win one out of two as opposed to two out of two. That's a pretty big deal, and that's our focus, much more so than matchups."
The Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers own identical records (37-29) entering Friday's game at Moda Center, and each team holds a 3.5-game lead on the Warriors. The winner Friday will hold on to sixth place and hold a tiebreaker over the loser.
When LeBron James returned to the Lakers' lineup a week ago, few would've expected LA would be in danger of playing in the play-in tournament. But James' injury, plus Dennis Schroeder's entry into the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols, have exacerbated the Lakers' underlying issues of a title defense after a shortened offseason and during a condensed regular season.
"It's only been the last couple of days where I've thought, 'Wow, the Lakers actually could drop to seventh.' " Kerr said Friday. "It's definitely a possibility at this point."
The Warriors, meanwhile, haven't been in sixth place since Jan. 27. Even if Golden State won its five remaining games to run the table, Kerr and Co. would still have an uphill climb to avoid the play-in.
But a lot can change in a week, and the Warriors have nine days remaining in the regular season. They best avoid writing their playoff plans in permanent ink.