Assuming the wheels completely don’t come unhinged and explode in the next month, the Golden State Warriors look all but playoff bound. With a 113-107 home win over the Phoenix Suns last night, the Dubs gave themselves a two-game cushion for the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference
arms race playoff race and are three games ahead of both the Suns and the Memphis Grizzlies for the last playoff spot. In the middle of a four-game win streak, what can we expect from the Warriors by the time the postseason rolls around?
For one thing, the Dubs have a very good chance of climbing higher than the sixth seed. Because of their phenomenal 24-5 start to the season, the Portland Trail Blazers are still 2.5 games ahead of the Warriors for the No. 5 spot in the West, but they’re sporting a paltry 18-16 record since that fast start. Of Portland’s 19 remaining games, 10 are on the road and 10 are against teams with winning records. That also includes a five-game Eastern road trip that includes the defending champion Miami Heat and the tough as nails Chicago Bulls.
The Warriors, meanwhile, only have to play seven of their final 18 games on the road and only nine games are against teams at .500 or better. Golden State is still four games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the No. 4 spot, so it would take an epic meltdown from Lob City for the Dubs to catch their Pacific Division rival, but it’s very possible for the Warriors to surpass Portland for that No. 5 spot.
Enjoyed the recent GSW stretch. This Warriors team is better than last year’s.
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) March 10, 2014
With that in mind, however, is that what Mark Jackson and company want? Obviously the Dubs want to be playing their best basketball heading into the postseason and that usually entails winning a lot of basketball games. But playoff matchups are extremely important and if they end up falling short of snagging home court advantage, would Golden State have a better chance against the Houston Rockets or the LA Clippers in the first round? (Even though Houston and LA have a chance to continue their recent win streaks and sneak into the top two, let’s just assume for now that the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs claim those spots).
With limited meetings between the Rockets and Warriors it’s tough to predict, but the three games they’ve played to this point largely favor Houston. The Rockets are 2-1 against the Dubs this year and the one game they lost was a three-point overtime loss at Oracle Arena. Houston’s two wins were by 22 points and four points, respectively, and although those two games were back in December, the Rockets have only gotten better in the two months that have followed.
The Clippers, on the other hand, have only beaten Golden State once in three tries and that lone victory was the second game of the season for the Warriors. In the two games since, the Dubs have won by two points and 19 points, though both games were at home. How the Dubs fare against the Clippers at Staples Center on Wednesday could tell us a lot about whether Golden State would rather take on Lob City or the Splash Brothers.
Either way, one good piece of news for the Warriors is they seem to have solved one of their biggest weaknesses – the bench – in the past few weeks. In 11 games since the All-Star break, the Dubs’ reserves have averaged 40 points per game, a considerable upgrade from the 24 points per game the bench was putting up before then. In last night’s win against the Suns, Golden State’s bench actually outscored the Phoenix bench, one of the better benches in the NBA. If the Warriors want to duplicate another first-round upset in the playoffs this year, they’ll need to focus on that bench and getting a favorable matchup.