In each of the past three seasons the Warriors placed a high value on using the regular season to earn the No. 1 overall seed entering the playoffs. Given its specific value to them, that goal was both logical and meaningful.
We repeat: Was.
The odds are stacked against the Warriors because they’re going into the final four weeks shorthanded, beginning with Stephen Curry, and because Houston, with a virtual three-game lead, shows no sign of anything remotely resembling a slump.
Even if the Warriors were to somehow achieve the No. 1 seed, it would not wield the clout it had in the past. Oh, they’d like it because it means opening every series at home and any Game 7s would be in Oakland. But they also realize Oracle Arena doesn’t provide the sizable advantage it once did.
Oracle still can be imposing, particularly in the postseason, when Dub Nation sniffs the possibility of a championship and turns bloodthirsty. In rampaging to the title last spring, the Warriors were perfect (9-0) at home with an average win margin of 17 points.
Oracle was their safety net, and teams daring to venture in were demolished.
That they likely won’t have homecourt advantage throughout is not a death knell for the Warriors. Not even close. Should they finish behind the Rockets, they would have to travel to Houston to open the series if the two teams advance to the conference finals. Should they finish behind the Raptors, and the teams advance to the NBA Finals, the Warriors would have travel to Toronto to open the series.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing for a team that thrives on challenges and is experienced in making deep postseason runs -- unlike either Houston or Toronto.
The days of invulnerability at Oracle are over, at least temporarily and maybe for good. With eight games remaining, the Warriors are 26-7 at home. That sounds impressive until one considers they lost a total of nine regular-season home games over the three previous seasons.
More to the point, those losses have come against an odd variety of visiting teams -- from the excellent to the mediocre to teams so far down the standings they’d need a NASA telescope to see the top.
The Warriors’ practical invincibility at home began to fray when they lost to the Rockets, on opening night, after taking a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter. Twelve nights later, the Pistons came to Oakland and outscored the Warriors 49-30 over the final 16 minutes to win by eight.
The Kings won in Oakland. The Nuggets won by 15 in Oakland, the Hornets by 11, the Clippers by 19, the Thunder by 20.
The Warriors are on the brink of losing the homecourt advantage in the postseason because they found ways in the regular season to lose too many games in which they supposedly had exactly that.
They have eight more regular-season games at Oracle, the first coming Wednesday night against the Lakers, who have won eight of their last 10 and are 19-9 over their last 28 games.
Just as important, the Warriors have seven more road games on the schedule, including trips to Utah and Oklahoma City, two teams against whom they are a combined 2-3. They have two games against Indiana, home and away, and the surprising Pacers are the No. 3 seed in the East.
The Warriors aren’t inclined to surrender anything, nor should they. But they are nose-to-nose with a bleak reality.
They’ve been without Stephen Curry for at least four more games and don’t know when he’ll return. They’ve been without David West for three games and don’t know when he’ll be back. Draymond Green will sit Wednesday night with an achy shoulder unlikely to heal until the offseason. The ultra-reliable Klay Thompson is questionable Wednesday after spraining a thumb on Sunday.
For the first time in four seasons, the Warriors are not in position to be preoccupied with locking down a homecourt advantage that isn’t worth what it used to be.
They’re better off devoting themselves to getting ailing players healthy and keeping the healthy ones hearty enough to drop the hammer when the real season begins.