The Golden State Warriors have been one of the surprise teams of the season, sitting at 25-6 with the second-best record in the league. But for all the challenges they’ve successfully overcome so far, their most difficult portion of the season is just around the corner.
Currently jostling with the Suns and Jazz for the top spot in the west, the way the Warriors navigate the next few weeks will likely determine their final place in the standings.
The Golden State Warriors will have to battle a tough schedule, rising covid issues and ongoing injury management to maintain their position at the top of the western conference.
Firstly, the Warriors’ next few weeks are their most difficult from a schedule perspective. Across the next 12 games, only one of those games will be against a team currently under .500. In addition, eight of those games will be on the road with no consecutive home games during the period.
Golden State will face litmus tests against their western conference rivals; scheduled to play away games at Phoenix and Utah, along with two games each against fourth-placed Memphis and fifth-placed Denver.
They’ll also face some of the best the east has to offer, with away games against the rising Chicago and Cleveland, along with the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.
But it’s so much more than just the difficulty of the schedule. As the NBA continues to produce rising covid numbers, the Warriors have now begun feeling the effects over the last week. Already with key starters Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole in health and safety protocols, it’s difficult to envisage the Warriors not having further issues especially given their travel schedule.
Those covid issues could be exacerbated by the fact the Warriors still have ongoing injury troubles. Klay Thompson and James Wiseman remain sidelined, with no set date for their return at this point. Golden State also has two back-to-backs scheduled, which means that, given the ongoing management of Andre Iguodala and Otto Porter Jr., they’ll likely be without that duo for at least two games.
Perhaps the most underrated aspect is the almost laborious nature of this period. There’s no doubt they began the season with a point to prove, buoyed by the mid-tier expectations predicted by much of the so-called experts. Now with over 30 games of data, everyone accepts that the Warriors are a very good team and as such, they’re getting the opposition’s best on a nightly basis.
They would have also been invigorated by the buzz and public interest around Stephen Curry’s three-point record, something that whilst maybe a distraction, would have also provided energy to the playing group.
The next spark will come when Thompson makes his long-awaited return, a moment there’s no doubt players, like fans, can’t wait to be a part of. But until then, it almost seems like this is a holding pattern until that moment arrives, whenever it may be.
It all culminates in an extremely difficult period, one that’ll likely require some Curry magic to steer through. Don’t be surprised if there’s a little lull where the Dubs lose some games, an element that’s already been displayed through some lackluster offensive performances in recent times.