The Golden State Warriors catch a break in the schedule when they close a four-game homestand Friday night against the tail-spinning San Antonio Spurs at San Francisco
The Warriors (40-37) have won four of five, beating the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers and New Orleans Pelicans to move into sixth place in the Western Conference, which is the last guaranteed first-round playoff spot
They will be looking to close out a three-game, season-series sweep of the Spurs (19-57), who have dropped five straight but no longer have an incentive to lose, having guaranteed themselves a spot in the bottom three of the overall NBA standings
They are assured of joining the Rockets and Detroit Pistons as co-favorites at the NBA draft lottery -- otherwise known as the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes -- all with the same odds of being able to select the French superstar.
The Warriors enter with plenty at stake. With five games remaining, including three on the road, they are currently one loss removed from the NBA play-in tournament and three losses better than the Mavericks, who are currently the last team out in the West
Golden State appeared headed for a second straight defeat Tuesday, trailing the Pelicans by 20 points late in the first half, before riding an emotional surge by Draymond Green to an electrifying comeback that produced a 120-109 win.
Green picked up a 17th technical foul in the second quarter after a run-in with Brandon Ingram following a flagrant foul, then could have been ejected from the game later in the period when he got entangled with Herbert Jones on the ground near the basket.
A referee's review cleared both, when a second technical not only would have ended Green's night, but would have meant an automatic one-game suspension for having reached 18 for the season.
"Draymond willed us to victory tonight," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "I mean, just his intensity, his frustration early with the way we were playing, mad at the world, yelling at everybody -- their bench, our bench, me -- and frankly we all deserved it
"That first half was as poor a half as we've played all year. We weren't engaged, and that's what makes Draymond special. It's not just the amazing basketball IQ, defense, and playmaking, but it's just his sheer will. And he was the key tonight."
Green didn't play much of a role in Golden State's two earlier wins over the Spurs, contributing a total of 10 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists. Neither did Stephen Curry, who has had 16 and 15 points in the two blowouts
It was Jordan Poole (36 and 25 points), Jeremy Lamb (total of 30 points) and Moses Moody (total of 23 points) who have overpowered the Spurs, who surprisingly won twice at Golden State last season
San Antonio is coming off a 128-117 home loss to the Utah Jazz when the Spurs were missing three of their top players -- Keldon Johnson (left foot injury management), Devin Vassell (left knee injury management) and Jeremy Sochan (sore right knee)
It's possible any and all could return to face the Warriors
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich noted after the loss that how his team performs is more important than who has delivered individually
"As long as they're giving effort, they're all learning; overall that's what we're trying to do," Popovich said. "No matter who is out, no matter who is not playing, other guys are happy to get minutes. Trying to get them to learn how to play, this is what it's all about."
--Field Level Media