If the NBA 2021-22 season ended today, the Golden State Warriors (placed 3rd) would have taken on the sixth-placed Denver Nuggets in the playoffs. They have lost their previous two encounters entering Thursday night’s matchup.
Their tougher challenge though is the games against East powerhouses — Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks (both are placed first and second). Throw in the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks, the Warriors actually head into a tough few games in the weeks to come.
From a postseason perspective, the Warriors winning games against the Heat and Bucks will give them a world of confidence and inject some momentum
Safe to say, Golden State has their work cut out. Because right after these matchups, they square off against the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz. The rest of the schedule is against teams that are clinging on to dear life and fighting for the ninth and tenth seeds.
First up, the Bucks.
The last time they squared off, Giannis Antetokounmpo buried the side 99-118 with a triple-double (30 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists). Both sides missed key figures in Draymond Green and Jrue Holiday, but Milwaukee ensured they were one step ahead with their defense.
Come March 23, they take on the Heat. The Dubs have faced Jimmy Butler & Co just once so far in the season and won 115-104. Jordan Poole came off the bench to pour 32 points while Andrew Wiggins chipped in with 22.
Butler had a neat run with 22 points, five rebounds, and three assists but had to be helped off the court after turning his right ankle awkwardly. Despite Stephen Curry’s quiet night, they doused the undermanned Heat.
Things have changed since then. While Miami had a steady climb, Golden State has slipped a couple of rungs. They’ve lost five of their last six games and will hope that two wins will put them in a better space.
The losses can be attributed to Klay Thompson’s shooting slump and Draymond Green’s absence that has impacted shot production, the defense, and most importantly, the experience and game awareness the latter brings to the table.
On Thompson’s part, he’s taking more shots statistically, but missing them as well. At present, his offensive usage rate of 28.7% trumps his career average of 24.8%. What’s taken a hit is his shooting percentage that’s comes down to 40.9%.
His 3-point shooting has slumped 36.2% — which are lows as far as his career stats are concerned.
The good news: The game against the Washington Wizards on March 14 will almost certainly see Green suit up. Andre Igoudala is on his way back and that would mean a solid presence for the second unit. Couple that with Thompson finding his groove, they will have some pluses.
The bigger focus in the games against the Heat and the Bucks will be the Warriors’ rebuilding defense. It helps that they’ll have a healthier unit as they head into the postseason, but for now, they need wins, not just to gain momentum, but to build their dented and teetering confidence.