NBA Basketball

Warriors to face Lakers while closing in on No. 1 seed

The Golden State Warriors turn their attention to individual accomplishments and preparations for the upcoming playoffs when they begin a run of five games in seven days with a visit to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

The Warriors put themselves in prime position to lock up the top seeding in the Western Conference on Tuesday night with a 116-102 home win over the Denver Nuggets.

That put the Warriors (53-24) within three wins (or Nuggets losses) of clinching the No. 1 seed, something that most consider a foregone conclusion being that Golden State finishes the regular season with four of five games against lottery-bound teams.

Among the pieces of unfinished business on Thursday night, the Warriors need a win to complete the sixth consecutive season-series triumph over their California rivals from the south. Golden State has rebounded to win the last two meetings against the Lakers by a total of 33 points after absorbing a 127-101 home shellacking on Christmas Day.

The Warriors have gone 18-5 against the Lakers since the end of the 2013 season.

If there was a negative to the win over Denver, it was that the Warriors' Kevin Durant received a two-technical-foul ejection in the third quarter.

That increased his technical total this season to 16, meaning he will get nailed with an automatic one-game suspension if he receives another in the regular season.

The total resets at zero for the playoffs.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr mentioned to reporters after Tuesday's game that he didn't think Durant's dispute with referee Zach Zarba warranted an ejection.

"I thought he deserved the first technical, but I didn't think he deserved the second one. I was very surprised," Kerr noted. "I didn't think he deserved to be ejected. I think Zach Zarba is one of the best officials in the game, so I've got no complaints with Zach. He knows what he's doing. He's a fantastic official. Just surprising. I never really did get an explanation. I didn't get a chance to talk to him, but we move on."

Warriors forward Draymond Green is two technicals away from a similar fate.

Meanwhile, Warriors guards Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry are closing in on franchise-related accomplishments.

Thompson almost surely will play the nine minutes required to pass Wilt Chamberlain (20,231) for eighth place on the Warriors' all-time list.

Curry needs 31 points to pass Paul Arizin (16,266) for third place on the franchise scoring list.

The Warriors head to Los Angeles in hopes it won't be the last time they see one of their friends, Luke Walton, coaching there.

The former Warriors assistant coach has come under fire for missing the playoffs in LeBron James' first season with the team, even though the Lakers (35-43) almost surely will increase their win total for the third consecutive season.

They finished last season 35-47.

One report Wednesday pinpointed Juwan Howard as the most likely guy to replace Walton next season.

"I just view it as outside noise," Walton told reporters recently of the rumors. "Unless someone from within our group is telling me that, I just view it like all the other things we've gone through as a team this year. Those are things that I don't have the time to worry about."

Despite the season-ending loss of James, who was shut down for the final six games of the regular season to rest a groin injury, the Lakers are finishing strong, having won three straight at home and four of six overall.

--Field Level Media

Updated April 3, 2019

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