This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.
The Golden State Warriors are in a tight playoff race in the Western Conference.
The good news is that they have a fairly manageable schedule in the last stretch of the regular season. With 13 games left in the season, the Warriors have eight of those games at home and only five of them are against playoff-contending teams.
Th Warriors do have three more back-to-backs in the regular season though, which isn’t exactly ideal, especially since two of them are near the end of the season. Their first back-to-back is on the road first against the Dallas Mavericks on April 1st and then against the San Antonio Spurs on April 2nd.
Then, they have two back-to-backs within the span of four games. On April 10th, they play the Denver Nuggets at home, and they play the Los Angeles Lakers in L.A on April 11th. Then, on April 13th, they play the Portland Trailblazers in Portland, and then they play the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 14th at home.
In their remaining schedule, the Warriors face a lot of opponents with inferior records during the rest of the season, and those games should all be won.
There are a few games that they need to view as must-wins, because of playoff seeding. These three games are on March 28th at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, that April 1st game in Dallas, and that April 13th game in Portland.
Also, the Warriors have almost a full week off between their game against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday and when they play the Memphis Grizzlies next Friday. The Warriors need to ensure they don’t lose their rhythm during that time off.
As mentioned before, the playoff race in the Western Conference is extremely competitive and even tighter than usual this season. Portland, Golden State, Memphis, Dallas, and the Phoenix Suns currently occupy the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth seeds in the Western Conference.
All five of these teams are within five and a half games of each other in the standings. The Warriors are currently that sixth seed and only 1.5 games behind Portland. The Warriors should aim for that fifth seed, and it’s quite possible that they could snag it.
The Warriors’ huge win over the Blazers this past Sunday was huge in terms of standings, and their game against the Blazers on April 13th will also be significant in terms of standings, especially since it’s at the end of the season.
Beating the Blazers will obviously improve their chances of snagging that fifth seed from them, but here are some other things they can do to improve their chances of moving up in the standings.
First of all, the Warriors need to play better at home. They currently have a 21-11 record at home, which isn’t bad but could certainly be better given Oracle Arena’s energetic and passionate crowd.
They’ve let some winnable games slip away at home this season, including games against the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Bobcats, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Speaking of these winnable games, the Warriors also have to improve on playing with the same amount of energy and effort every night. They sometimes play down to their competition. Given the tightness of the playoff race in the Western Conference, the Warriors can’t afford to lose any more of these games for the rest of the season.
The Warriors also have to limit their turnovers, especially the careless, avoidable ones.
Turnovers disrupt with their offensive rhythm and gives their opponents easy transition buckets. The Warriors are so dependent on playing games at their speed and their tempo, and when their opponent disrupts that, the Warriors can easily fall off course.
Lastly, the Warriors need to keep playing their stellar defense. The Warriors are focused on making defense the priority for the rest of the season.
According to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Warriors came together after their loss against the Cavs last Friday and discussed the importance of defense.
“With 15 games left in the season, we wanted to make sure everybody was still on the same page with how we’re going to win games going forward,” Warriors point guard Stephen Curry said. “Nobody in here should be fooled. Defensively is how we’ve changed things around. We can’t rely on our offense to win us every single game. That just needed to be said with where we are in the playoff race.”
If the Warriors can stay healthy, they have an excellent chance of snagging that fifth seed. Given the amount of talent on this team and their recent streak of near perfect basketball (minus a game or two), the Warriors are starting to peak at just the right time.
The Warriors can take some of this momentum into the playoffs, most likely as the fifth seed.