Coming into the All-Star break, the Golden State Warriors are currently further back in the standings than both fans and management expected.
As the current eighth seed, the Warriors are on the edge of the playoff picture, only one game up on the Memphis Grizzlies in the loss column for the last playoff spot. Only two games separate the sixth place Mavericks from the ninth place Grizzlies, and it is likely that these four teams (Mavericks, Suns, Warriors, and Grizzlies) will be battling for the final three playoff spots.
One of the key factors that may determine who will ultimately make the playoffs and who is going to be left at home is each team’s remaining schedule. Scheduling features — such as strength of schedule, back-to-backs, and long road trip — can have a large effect on a teams record, and although it is ultimately how a team plays that determines whether or not it will make it to the postseason, these factors should be paid attention to.
Remaining Strength of Schedule
Of the four teams fighting for the playoffs, the Warriors have the easiest strength of schedule remaining. With 15 of their final 29 games coming against teams currently out of the playoffs (including seven against Eastern Conference lottery teams), the Warriors have a SOS (strength of schedule) of .511 for the rest of the season. Memphis has the second easiest SOS remaining at .522, followed by Pheonix at .525 and Dallas at .539. Remaining SOS by conference and overall can be seen below.
Road vs. Home Games
Although the Warriors have been struggling recently at home, teams usually perform better at home than on the road. All but three teams in the Western Conference have a home winning record, and teams can gain momentum to carry them through the season in front of their home fans.
Of the four teams, Dallas, Golden State and Phoenix each have 15 home games remaining, with Memphis having only 13. As you would expect, Memphis has the most road games remaining with 17, followed by Phoenix with 16, Golden State with 14, and Dallas with only 13 road games left. This should be another good sign for the Warriors, as they have one of the heaviest home schedule where they should improve on their recent home performance.
However, the Warriors do still have the longest road trip remaining of the four teams. Starting Monday, Feb. 24, the Warriors will embark on a six game road trip that will start in Detroit and end in Boston. While this trip may be daunting with games against Indiana and the surging Toronto Raptors, the fact that the Warriors went 6-1 on their previous East road trip should provide some optimism.
While the strength of schedule and home/road indicators are a good sign for the Warriors, they do have one of the toughest remaining schedules when it comes to back-to-backs. The Warriors still have six B2B’s remaining, including several difficult ones such as @ Sac/vs. Hou, @NYK/@Tor, vs Dal/@LAC, and @Por/vs. Minn.
Memphis has the most back-to-backs remaining with six, but most of them shouldn’t be as difficult as that of the Warriors. Only one of the second end of their back-to-backs is against a current playoff team (although it is a brutal @Mia/vs. Indy), with the rest coming against struggling teams such as Cleveland and Philadelphia. Both Phoenix and Dallas are fortunate and only have three back-to-backs remaining.
Other Random Notes
- There are several teams that can have a huge impact on the remaining playoff picture. Both San Antonio and Denver had a total 0f seven games remaining against these four teams, with Portland, Minnesota and Utah all having six games remaining as well. If Minnesota and/or Denver can do well in these matchups, they could easily insert themselves right back into the playoff hunt.
- The Grizzlies have the fewest games remaining against the top four seeds in the Western Conference, facing the Thunder, San Antonio, and the Clippers once more. The Warriors have four games against the top four, facing San Antonio two more times and Houston and the Clippers only once each.
- Phoenix, however, has eight games remaining vs. the top four seeds, including two each against the Thunder and Spurs, one against the Rockets, and three against the Clippers. Dallas is in a similar situation, facing the Thunder, Spurs, and Clippers two times each.
- Dallas, Memphis, and Phoenix will have a three-way round robin to end the season that could have huge playoff implications. First, Phoenix plays Dallas in the third to last game of the season, followed by a game vs. Memphis a couple of days later. Then after the Phoenix-Memphis game, Memphis will play Dallas in the last game of the season. The results of those games will inevitably affect the playoff picture, whether it is who gets in or what seed each team ends up with.