The Golden State Warriors are assured of a playoff berth, but multiple scenarios remain over their final two games in order to determine their first-round opponent.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, meanwhile, simply would take finishing above .500 for the second straight season.
Golden State looks to win 50 games for the first time in 20 years Monday night by beating visiting Minnesota for the eighth time in nine meetings.
The Warriors (49-31) will be appearing in the playoffs for a second straight season for the first time since qualifying in 1990-91 and ’91-’92, and they’ve won their most games since finishing 50-32 in ’93-’94.
Where Golden State will play Game 1 still is to be determined, though it definitely will start the playoffs on the road. It currently holds the sixth seed, one-half game ahead of Dallas and a full game in front of eighth-place Memphis. Depending on how all three teams perform over their final contests, the Warriors could end up in any of the final three spots.
Golden State got a taste of a playoff atmosphere Sunday, falling 119-117 in overtime at Portland despite a season-best 47 points from Stephen Curry. Klay Thompson scored 25 points before fouling out, and Draymond Green hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation to force OT.
"Yeah, it did (feel like a playoff game)," Curry said. "This is kind of what you expect of two playoff teams preparing for that next step, and I think from start to finish it definitely had that feel."
Coach Mark Jackson especially was pleased with Curry’s performance – not just Sunday’s, but what he’s shown all season long. Curry is averaging career highs of 23.9 points and 8.5 assists.
"I just love the guy and, obviously, we ended up short, but we move forward," Jackson said. "He’s been great all year long. Like I said, he should be first team all-NBA. He’s been special, he’s been absolutely special."
Thompson scored 30 points while Curry finished with a season low-tying five as the Warriors won the first meeting with Minnesota 106-93 on Nov. 6.
They had their seven-game winning streak in the series snapped in the second matchup, though, as Kevin Martin’s jumper in the closing seconds helped trump Curry’s 33 points and 15 assists in the Timberwolves’ 121-120 victory Jan. 24.
Martin had 26 points in that contest while Kevin Love also scored 26 and added 14 rebounds and eight assists. Love had another solid performance Sunday, scoring 43 points and grabbing 11 boards in a 106-103 loss to Sacramento.
Martin returned after missing the previous five due to a sore foot, but he shot 0 for 8 from the field and scored two points.
Minnesota (40-40) has lost five of six on the road, and it would have to at least split its final two games in order to finish .500 or better in consecutive seasons for the first time since a run of seven straight from 1997-2004.
Love’s stellar performance Sunday came despite dealing with a hyperextended right elbow that forced him to sit out Friday’s 112-110 win over Houston.
"Our defense just wasn’t good enough in the second half," Love said. "Offensively we were fine, but they kind of went on a run and never looked back."
Minnesota had lost five of the previous six road meetings before beating the Warriors in January.