By Neil Hilario
OAKLAND - For the fourth time in five seasons, the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors will be the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs which begins next weekend.
The Dubs accomplished the feat by dusting off the L.A. Clippers 131-104 at the Oracle Arena to wrap up the season with a 56-24 record, retaking a familiar spot they surrendered to the Houston Rockets who topped last season's standings with a 65-17 finish.
Being top dog in the West is something the Warriors have gone accustomed to. It's a dominance that began in the 2014-15 season when they carded a 67-15 slate followed by a historic 73-9 record the following season, before adding another 67-15 campaign in the 2016-17 campaign.
Unlike their previous playoffs runs, this one is bittersweet. Sunday was the Warriors' last regular season home game at the Oracle Arena. And while they still have at least 12 home games left in the building - 16 if they make the Finals - there is a sense of finality and sadness in the thought that the team will be moving to the Chase Center in downtown San Francisco next season.
Oakland is a mere 17 minutes and 12.6 miles from San Francisco via interstate-80 East. It's also just a few train stops via the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). Not far, really, but a move nonetheless. Besides, San Francisco, with its big city trappings, is a world away from laid-back Oakland.
Head coach Steve Kerr spoke to the crowd at the conclusion of the Clippers game and thanked the fans for their support throughout the team's 47 years in Oakland.
Affectionate words can be nice and soothing to a grieving fan base about to lose their beloved team, one they've embraced back when times were thin. So how exactly do you thank them for 47 years worth of loyalty and devotion?
A hardware. Something tangible. Something golden, like the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Winning another championship, basking in another parade, the fourth in the last five years, are just a few of the many incentives the Warriors have to bring home the bacon. Becoming the first team to 3-peat since the 2000-02 Los Angeles Lakers adds another layer of joy and significance.
Sixteen more wins in the postseason is the magic number. Easier said than done. But with the comfort of good health plus home court advantage, these Warriors might just pull it off. For old time's sake.