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Play-in preview: Warriors’ season on the line against the Kings

Play-in preview: Warriors’ season on the line against the Kings

The Warriors are back in the play-in tournament, and any single loss will end their season.

Despite winning their season finale over Utah, the Warriors couldn’t climb out of the No. 10 seed as the Kings and Lakers both won on Sunday, too.

It’s not the fate the Warriors — winners of four championships in the past decade and with a record-breaking luxury tax bill — wanted, but it’s the fate they earned in a loaded Western Conference. Too many blown leads, a 21-20 home record and Draymond Green’s suspensions prevented them from reaching their potential.

Golden State finished with more wins than last year, when it claimed the sixth seed, but its record this season was only good enough for 10th. Under the format before the play-in tournament, the Warriors (46-36) wouldn’t be in the postseason at all.

There is a strong belief within the Warriors organization that they can beat any team on any given night. They have four Hall of Famers, a group of ascending young talent contributing, a defense that has rounded into shape around Draymond Green and Trayce Jackson-Davis, and finished the regular season winners of 10 of their last 12 games.

Their belief will be tested, first on Tuesday (7 p.m., TNT) at Golden 1 Center against the Kings in a Northern California single-elimination game. If they win, they’ll advance to a second road elimination game Friday against the loser of the 7/8 matchup between the Pelicans and Lakers.

Two wins would earn them a series against the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.

Season series

The Warriors and Kings split four games but have not played since the Kings won 134-133 at Chase Center on Jan. 25.

The Kings will host because they won the tiebreaker by virtue of conference record.

Both Warriors wins came early in the season, before their rotation fell into place. In those games, Domantas Sabonis, who has historically struggled against Golden State, shot a combined 15-for-31.

The Kings later eliminated the Warriors from the in-season tournament and won a late-January bout in San Francisco. Three of the four games between the Kings and Warriors were decided by one point.

Postseason history

Don’t call it a rivalry…right?

The Warriors eliminated the Kings last year in the first round, winning in seven games. Curry dropped 50 points in Game 7 of a testy series. Draymond Green got suspended for a game for stomping on Domantas Sabonis’ chest, which intensified the bad blood between the two Northern California teams.

But is it a rivalry? The jury’s still out.

“I’m gonna have to check with the committee that defines what rivalry actually means,” Curry said this past November. “I love the narrative around the back-and-forth, we’ve played them so many times over the last couple of years. Whatever you call it, it’s fun basketball.”

That seven-game series is the only time the Warriors and Kings have matched up in the postseason. Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox are All-Stars, but the Kings are still vying to become more than second fiddle in the region.

Storylines to track

Sacramento stumbled to the finish line, losing both Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk to injuries. The Kings crushed Portland in the regular season finale, but lost five of six before that.

If Monk, one of the game’s best bench scorers, can return for the play-in, that would be a major boost for the Kings.

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Kings head coach Mike Brown, a former Warriors assistant, knows the Warriors’ system inside and out. No action or set the Warriors run will surprise Sacramento.

And while the Warriors have much more postseason experience than the Kings, some of Golden State’s young contributors are still getting their playoff feet wet. Jonathan Kuminga hasn’t been much of a factor in prior playoff series, and rookies Brandin Podziemski and Jackson-Davis will get tested.

Sacramento, given its injuries, is probably the easiest draw the Warriors could’ve gotten for their first play-in game. But given the recent history between the teams, don’t bank on a Warriors walkover.

West bracket

No. 1 Oklahoma City vs. No. 8 TBD

No. 2 Denver vs. No. 7 TBD

No. 3 Minnesota vs. No. 6 Phoenix

No. 4 LA Clippers vs. No. 5 Dallas

Play-in:

No. 7 New Orleans vs. No. 8 LA Lakers

No. 9 Sacramento vs. No. 10 Golden State