The NBA playoffs begin Saturday night for the Warriors, with Game 1 in their house, against a Houston Rockets team that has lost 28 of its last 31 games. They’ll be favored.
Win, and the faint pulse of their season gets perceptibly stronger.
Lose this game, fall to five below .500, and that fickle thing called hope has every right to throw up its hands and walk away until next season.
That’s the unstable ledge onto which the Warriors backed themselves Friday night with a 110-107 home loss to a Wizards team that had lost 12 of its last 16.
What was billed as the first game of a momentum-generating sprint to the finish began with the Warriors playing languid defense and ended with them stumbling over their sneakers in the final seconds at Chase Center.
At 24-28, the Warriors maintain a slippery grip on the 10th and final postseason berth in the Western Conference. They are closer to the 13th-place Oklahoma City Thunder than to the seventh-place Dallas Mavericks, closer to the 12th-place Sacramento Kings than to the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies.
Damion Lee blamed himself for the loss, a noble gesture not entirely accurate. His turnover, a botched pass with 1.2 seconds remaining, merely extinguished any realistic chance of a Warriors victory.
“I tried to make the right basketball play,” Lee said, correctly. “Turned it over. That’s totally on me. That’s completely on me. I’ve got to be better…