With the Portland Trail Blazers getting blown out by the Charlotte Bobcats last night, the Golden State Warriors had an opportunity to close within half a game for the fifth seed in the West.
The Blazers have struggled mightily the month of March, going just 5-7, giving the Warriors an opportunity to seize control of their spot. Meanwhile, the Warriors have been generally great in March, going 8-3 entering last nights game, including a win over the Blazers.
However, they were not able to capitalize on the short-handed Spurs (yet again) and still find themselves one and a half games back of the Trail Blazers, and two back in the loss column. Still, with one more head to head matchup left and a relatively easy remaining schedule, the Warriors are still in good position to reach the fifth seed, especially with how poorly the Blazers have played as of late.
Even then, the Warriors cannot afford to relax and take their foot off the pedal. The Grizzlies, Mavericks, and Suns are all within three games of the Warriors, and a losing streak with so few games left on the schedule could find the Warriors looking from the outside in when the playoffs begin.
If the Warriors are able to hold onto their playoff spot, which seems likely (John Hollinger’s playoff odds have them making the playoffs 99.2% of the time), a matchup with the Rockets or Clippers seems most likely. The chances of the Warriors passing either team (as well as the Blazers) to get home court in the first round is low, as they find themselves five games back of the fourth seed Rockets in the loss with only 11 games left to play.
However, if the Warriors fail to finish the season strong, they could find themselves matched up with the Spurs or the Thunder. This of course, would also depend on how Memphis, Dallas, and Phoenix finish the season as well.
Trail Blazers’ Remaining Schedule: 6 Home, 6 Away, Opponents Win%: .492
As poorly as Portland has played recently, they actually have the easiest remaining schedule of the nine teams fighting for playoff positioning. Of their remaining 12 games, only six are against teams with winning records, and four of those games will be at home. They also finish the season with six of their last eight games at home, with no back-to-backs during that stretch.
With that being said, there are grounds for concern for Blazer fans. This week, they have a brutal four games in five nights on the road, including a game against Miami and another against the surging Chicago Bulls. They also have remaining games against Memphis, Phoenix, Golden State, and the Clippers, whom they have a combined record of 3-7 record against this season.
Warriors Remaining Schedule: 6 Home, 5 Away, Opponents Win%: .494
The Warriors have the second easiest remaining schedule of the nine teams, and after the upcoming four game stretch, it will become easier. After getting five days off, the Warriors will then face the Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks (winners of eight straight), Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs. If the Warriors have any hope of getting the fifth seed, they will need at least a split during that stretch, or else they may even see themselves looking up at the Mavericks or Grizzlies.
However, after that, the Warriors last seven games get a lot easier. They will only have two games remaining against teams with records above .500, and will also have “easy” games against the Kings, Lakers, and Jazz. However, as we’ve seen this season, there is no such thing as an easy win, and anything can happen.
Mavericks Remaining Schedule: 7 Home, 5 Away, Opponents Win%: .549
Of all the teams fighting for positioning, the Mavericks by far have the most difficult schedule by opponents win percentage. Of their remaining 12 games, eight will come against teams above .500. They find themselves currently in a very difficult stretch, with four of their next five games coming against the Nets, Thunder, Clippers, and Warriors. Lucky for them, all of these games will be at home.
After enjoying a relatively easy road stretch with games against the Lakers, Kings, and Jazz, they then end the season with a tough final three games. Two of these games will be against the Suns or Grizzlies, teams they are directly fighting with for playoff positioning.
Grizzlies: Remaining Schedule: 5 Home, 8 Away, Opponents Win%: .514
After playing Minnesota on Monday, the Grizzlies then embark on a five game road trip where they will face both the Warriors and the Blazers. If the Grizzlies have any hope of gaining ground and grabbing a fifth or sixth seed, those games become must-wins.
Even after that stretch, the Grizzlies still have a difficult schedule, with remaining games vs. San Antonio, Miami, Phoenix, and Dallas. Similar to the Mavericks, their last two games are against Phoenix and Dallas which may be key for playoff positioning. Although the Grizzlies have a hard remaining schedule, they have plenty of games left against teams near them in the playoff hunt, so they can either make or break their season.
Suns Remaining Schedule: 4 Home, 9 Away, Opponents Win%: .543
With the combination of road heavy, difficult schedule, Phoenix will have to finish the season very strong to make the playoffs. Not only are nine of their remaining 13 games on the road, but they also have eight games remaining against teams over .500, which include road tests against Portland, San Antonio, and Dallas.
Their home schedule is just as brutal, with each game against a surging team. There are almost no “easy” games remaining for the Suns, so if they do end up in the playoffs, they will definitely deserve it. One of the advantages of having a difficult schedule to end the season is that they get to face off against the teams you are fighting with, and with games against Dallas, Memphis, and Portland remaining, they will have a chance to make their own luck.
Overall, the Warriors have one of the easiest remaining schedules. With the difficult schedule left for the Mavericks, Grizzlies, and Suns, a playoff seed should be all but guaranteed, and if they don’t fall apart, it appears they will end up with either the fifth or sixth seed. That result could ultimately come down to the Warriors third to last game of the season, against the Blazers in Portland.
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