When the Golden State Warriors lost to the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs on national television on Dec. 19th, doubts started to creep into fans’ minds. The team was fighting to stay above .500, falling to 14-13 and was outside the playoff picture. Not only had the recent results been poor (3-5 in the previous eight games), but the Warriors were also in the middle of a busy schedule that wouldn’t give them multiple days off until this weekend.
However, there were factors that were in the Warriors favor. The game against San Antonio was only Andre Iguodala’s second game returning from his hamstring injury, and we know how important he is to the Warriors lineup. Another reason to be optimistic about the Warriors chances was the fact that although eight of the next 12 games would be on the road, all but one would be against the lackluster Eastern Conference. The majority of those games would come on the seven-game “business road trip,” with difficult stops in Miami, Atlanta, and Brooklyn.
Two days after the disappointing loss the the Spurs, the Warriors showed fans why they shouldn’t be worried. They clobbered the shorthanded Lakers 102-83, and then won again two nights later in Andre Iguodala’s return to Denver. Those wins, coupled with a tough victory on Christmas Day against the division rival Clippers, jumpstarted the team and as the Warriors showed why they were considered Western Conference Final contenders.
The Warriors went on to win 10 straight games through the difficult scheduling, putting themselves firmly in the playoff picture and only one game out of the division lead. The Warriors are now enjoying a much needed four day break between games (Although Iguodala is probably enjoying it more than Curry and Bazemore, as the his 49ers took down their Panthers yesterday), and look to capitalize on their upcoming schedule.
Of the next 17 games the Warriors play, twelve will be at Oracle, where the Warriors are 12-4 on the season. They have played the least home games of any contending team in the Western Conference, and have also played the most games of any team in the league against the Western Conference. The fact that the Warriors are dead even with the Rockets and only one game back of the Clippers for the division lead bodes well for the team’s playoff outlook.
Just a month ago, the Warriors were struggling for a playoff spot, but now they are exactly where they would like to be. They were able to find wins in many different ways, and often pull games out that they should’ve lost (at Atlanta, for example). That is what the great teams do, and the Warriors have shown us over the last month that they deserve to be in that conversation.