Heading into the 3rd quarter of their game against the Magic, a patented Warriors run felt inevitable. Sparked on the back of a 9-2 stretch, the Golden State Warriors battled back and surged past the upstart Orlando Magic. Not to be outdone, the Magic mounted a late comeback of their own and shocked the Warriors late. The Magic are a very underrated defensive team, ranking 9th in the league for defensive rating (per nba.com) and gave fits to every Warrior not named DeMarcus Cousins.
Demarcus Cousins still looks to have a bit of rust returning from his Achilles injury and rightfully so. However, Cousins looked much more comfortable against the Magic and did a bit of everything while seamlessly fitting into the defense. Cousins is still prone to mental lapses from time to time, but seems to be understanding and playing his role nicely alongside fellow superstars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant (who missed the game). Unfortunately, Cousins committed a bad foul late that helped put the dagger in the Warriors hopes.
The Magic are not nearly the same caliber of team as the Warriors, but hung tough and held the lead for the majority of the game. Nikola Vucevic went ice cold throughout the game (though he made some plays late) and the Magic instead had to mostly rely on inefficient scoring of Aaron Gordon to carry them. With Terrence Ross also ice cold for the majority of the game, the Magic simply didn’t have anyone going capable of getting consistent buckets to hold off the Warrior run. To his credit, Ross did catch fire from deep and sparked a run that would take back the lead late in the 4th.
Updated Warriors Championship Chances
When the night started, FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection had the Warriors pegged as having a 56% chance to win the NBA title and a 74% chance to escape the Western Conference. FiveThirtyEight’s ELO forecast was a bit less high on the Warriors, giving them only a 23% chance of winning the finals to go with a 42% chance to win the Western Conference.
After their loss, the Warriors slipped to a 55% chance to win the NBA title and stayed stagnant in their chances to win the West according to the CARMELO projection. The pure ELO forecast was a bit harsher on the Warriors following the loss dropping them to a 39% chance to make the finals along with a 21% chance to win the championship.
The Warriors’ Path to the #1 Seed in the NBA Playoffs
With the loss, the Warriors now trail the Nuggets in the loss column. The Warriors and Nuggets actually meet twice more before the season ends and with 20 games to go, so it is safe to assume that homecourt advantage will likely go to whichever team that can pry away wins in both affairs. The Nuggets have one of the tougher remaining schedules in the NBA, ranking 6th in remaining strength of schedule. Meanwhile, the Warriors have a slightly easier path to the top seed with the 13th toughest remaining schedule (per Tankathon)
Although the Nuggets face a slightly tougher road to homecourt advantage, don’t expect them to take a night off as they are a young and hungry basketball team. While the Warriors have the tendency to play on cruise control outside of the NBA Playoffs, they can ill afford to face the Nuggets at home four times in a series. One of the best home teams in the league, the Nuggets currently sit atop the league with a 27-4 record at home in the thin air of Denver.