Here we are, 20 games left in the season, with what seems to be a likely playoff berth for the Golden State Warriors. It’s been a few years since the Bay Area team has been in the postseason, and it’s been a while since they have carried a squad as complete as this one.
But I’m still worried.
Even though the Warriors hold the sixth seed, they can still drop out of the playoffs if they suffer another bad losing streak. Granted, their losing streak came on a huge road trip, and the majority of the games they have left are at home, but it still doesn’t mean Mark Jackson’s troops should let up on the accelerator.
There are teams that can still knock them out of playoff contention. The Warriors seem very unlikely to move up to the fifth seed, considering the gap between them and the Nuggets is six games, but the teams behind them, the Rockets, the Jazz and the Lakers aren’t too far behind them. The Rockets, Jazz and Lakers are only two, two-and-a-half and four games behind, respectively, and are playing pretty good basketball.
The offensive onslaught brought by the Rockets is an incredibly tough matchup for any team as they run an up-tempo offense which barrages teams with threes, not unlike Mike D’Antoni’s Suns teams. As it gets later in the season, teams grow weary and not many will be able to keep up with the well-conditioned speed of the Rockets. It’s only a two-game difference, with the Warriors visiting the Toyota Center for the final game between the two teams this season.
The Jazz are another talented team with a plethora of big men who can play both ways. They’re 10th in the league scoring-wise, and they do so by bullying other teams in the paint with their size. Although, they could also miss the playoffs. The Warriors still have to make sure thee Jazz stay in their rear view mirror.
As a colleague of mine pointed out, the Jazz have an incredibly tough schedule coming up in the next 10 games. Seven of them are playoff-bound teams, and only two of them are games where the Jazz are the outright favorites to win. The Warriors should be able to solidify their lead against the Jazz with minimal work, and have a chance to build on it with a final game at Oracle.
The underperforming Lakers are much closer than they appear, only four games behind the Warriors and only one and half games outside the playoffs. I stated in my last piece that they’re too talented of a team to miss the playoffs, and I still stand by that. The question is if the Lakers do manage to make it, which team will be at its expense?
The Warriors would be smart to try to increase their lead in the standings so that they won’t be victimized by the Lakers’ potential playoff berth. Right now, the Jazz’ schedule sets them up to be that victim, which really improves the Warriors’ postseason outlook.