Pelicans bid to strengthen hold on No. 6 seed in visit to Warriors

The New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors will have plenty at stake on Friday night when they tip off in San Francisco.

The Pelicans (48-32) retained a one-game lead over the Phoenix Suns (47-33) in their tussle for the sixth and final guaranteed playoff position in the Western Conference with a 135-123 road win over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.

The Suns hold the tiebreaker over New Orleans, meaning the Pelicans must retain their advantage in the standings over the final two games of the regular season in order to secure the No. 6 playoff spot.

A New Orleans win over Golden State coupled with a Phoenix loss at Sacramento on Friday night would clinch that berth for the Pelicans. A New Orleans loss and Phoenix win, on the other hand, would create a tie with just one game remaining. The Pelicans will finish their season on Sunday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers while the Suns will visit the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Both the Pelicans and Warriors will play the second night of a back-to-back on Friday. Golden State posted a 100-92 victory at Portland on Thursday while resting Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Gary Payton II.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans had to use Trey Murphy III for 45 minutes and CJ McCollum for 40 in the crucial win at Sacramento — New Orleans’ third victory in a row.

They were able to keep star Zion Williamson to 31 minutes, but not necessarily by design. He left the floor midway through the third quarter with a left wrist injury, although he returned to action in the final period and finished a 31-point performance.

“He’s showing the world what he’s about,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “He’s bringing it night in and night out. He had to gut through an injury tonight. He knew his teammates needed him. He came through for us in the end.”

The Warriors (45-35) can’t catch the Pelicans in the standings and thus cannot avoid a spot in the play-in tournament. Their focus now is beating out the Kings (45-35) and Lakers (45-35), a three-way logjam that would favor Sacramento and then Golden State in the tiebreakers.

Golden State, which has won three straight games and nine of its past 10, would be guaranteed at least a ninth-place finish with a pair of victories to end the regular season. They will wrap up Sunday at home against the Utah Jazz.

Despite some anxious moments, Golden State coach Steve Kerr was proud to state his team’s mission was accomplished with a 100-92 victory over Portland on Thursday.

“Obviously, back-to-back. We were hoping to take care of business (on Thursday) while resting three key players),” he said. “Portland, I give them a lot of credit. They made things difficult for us.

“We pulled through at the end. We got it done. Now we’ve got a chance to play New Orleans (on Friday) and get a win and put ourselves in a pretty good spot.”

The Pelicans and Warriors have split one-sided games this season, each winning on the other’s home court. Golden State rode 42 points from Stephen Curry to a 130-102 romp at New Orleans on Oct. 30 before the Pelicans exacted revenge in a big way on Jan. 10 with a 141-105 triumph over a Warriors squad missing Green, Payton and Chris Paul.