Technically, the Warriors won Friday night, 125-122. Jordan Poole made a driving layup to put Golden State up one with 21 seconds left, but the result actually didn’t matter.
Regardless if Golden State (38-33) won or lost Friday, Sunday’s matchup against the Grizzlies will determine who advances into the eighth and ninth seeds in the NBA play-in tournament. The eighth seed will play an win-and-in game against the No. 7 seed, while the ninth seed will need to win consecutive games against the No. 10 Western Conference team and then the winner of the No. 7-No. 8 matchup to advance to the actual NBA Playoffs.
The rest allowed players who did suit up an opportunity with no pressure. And it showed in the way the Warriors came out: The team was as loose as we’ve seen on the court this season and played absolutely free.
The ball was hopping around, shots were being launched without hesitation, and, when things like that happen, it’s always reflected on the scoreboard.
All three put up career highs, Poole and Mulder in points with 38 and 28 respectively, and Toscano-Anderson in assists with nine.
Poole, especially, looked a level above everyone on the court, doing whatever he pleased. He went 8-of-12 from the field for 24 points in the first half and looked borderline unstoppable.
Friday night was the third straight-game in which Poole topped 20 points, though this one came against a significantly less-talented team.
It wasn’t all good though, as Poole had a scare when he came down on a foot and twisted his ankle, which left him on the court for an extended period of time.
That would have been the worst possible situation for the Warriors, already shorthanded, going into the most important game of the year with one of their most consistent scorers hurt in a meaningless game.
Thankfully for them, Poole shook it off and looked fine when he checked back into the game — even though that decision seemed questionable at best. The Warriors actually got some encouraging health news Friday as Eric Paschall made his return to the lineup for the first time in over a month.
Paschall has been sidelined with a hip injury, although even before that he had nagging injuries to his knee and wrist. He’ll be a welcome addition to this postseason push, since Kevon Looney and Green are the only active bigs the Warriors have.
Golden State added another big Friday as newly-signed Jordan Bell suited up for the first time. Bell signed into Toscano-Anderson’s two-way spot once the Oakland native signed his new multi-year deal.
It may have been fun for the 4,155 in attendance at Chase Center to see a close win Friday, the Warriors accomplished the most important goal. And that was to stay healthy going into their showdown Sunday.
The 72-game 2021 regular season all comes down to the last day. An early Sunday afternoon game against the Memphis Grizzlies decides who is the eighth seed and who is the ninth. The winner earns the Lakers or Trail Blazers for a win-and-in matchup, and the loser faces a home game against the Spurs, after which the winner would need to win again to become the eighth seed in the West.