It's only February and you won't find a notation next to their name in the standings, but Monday's loss might have been the one that crushed the Warriors' playoff hopes once and for all.
The Warriors had every reason to be optimistic heading into their home game against the Suns. They were coming off consecutive home wins over the Jazz, Bucks and Bulls, had crept to within 1 1/2 games of Phoenix in the Western Conference playoff race and had a chance to even the season series against the Suns, a possible tiebreaker in what was becoming a tight race for postseason positioning.
Alas, the Suns popped the Warriors' balloon with a 33-17 first-quarter run en route to a win that opened a 2 1/2-game gap in the standings.
Sure, there are still 32 games remaining to be played. But this game was more about momentum and making a statement that the Warriors belonged in the playoff conversation, and they stumbled badly in both areas.
The Warriors not only trail the Suns by the 2 1/2 games, they also cannot win the season series. There are still two head-to-heads remaining, but both are in Phoenix and the Warriors would need to sweep to get a 2-2 split.
The Warriors also lost ground Monday to the Trail Blazers and Rockets, two other teams currently residing between them and the No. 8 playoff position, and the defeat prevented them from gaining ground on the Grizzlies, who lost to the Lakers.
The loss also assured the Warriors will not finish their eight-game homestand with a winning record. They're 3-4 with just one game remaining -- Wednesday against the Nuggets.
SUNS 104, WARRIORS 92: If commissioner David Stern was watching Monday's game in case he needs to choose between Steve Nash and Monta Ellis should he need an injury replacement on the Western Conference All-Star team, the Warriors could have lost more than just a game. Nash, celebrating his 37th birthday in front of many of his college fans (he attended Santa Clara, which is about 30 miles south of Oakland), got much the better of Ellis in their head-to-head, contributing 14 points and 15 assists to the win. Ellis, as usual, led the Warriors in scoring with 21, but he shot just 5-for-17 in the loss.
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