[I've updated the post below to take into account recent events, particularly the Patrick Beverley injury.]
As we all know, the Warriors (44-27) sit 1 game back from the Blazers (46-27) and 5.0 games back from the Rockets (49-22), with the teams from 9 to 11 games left to play. I looked at their remaining schedule and asked whether we should catch Portland for the 5-seed and whether we could catch Houston for the 4-seed. As you'll see, we have a good chance of leaving the Blazers trailing and an outside shot zooming past the Rockets.
And what does this mean? Particularly if Patrick Beverley -- out with a torn meniscus -- can't return for the first round of the playoffs, passing Portland in the standings means a chance to force Houston to try to contain Stephen Curry with Jeremy Lina their primary defender. using in the first round instead of the Clippers. I don't know about you, but I like our chances with that line-up. And if we can squeak past the Rockets by the end of regular season, that means home court advantage in that series to boot.
Let's start with Golden State.
|Warriors||Opponent||Location||Days Rest||Opp Wins in Last 10|
After a stretch of 3 challenging but winnable games -- Memphis and New York at Home, and Dallas away -- we have a likely loss (at San Antonio on a back-to-back), and then the schedule gets really soft. Setting aside the away game in Portland on April 13, every single remaining game should be a win, with a home stand of Sacramento, Utah, and Denver, a short trip to the Lakers, home against Minnesota, and finishing at Denver. If I had to pick 3 games to circle on the calender, it would definitely be the Grizzlies at Oracle on Friday and the away games at Dallas and Portland. If they take care of business against the easier opponents, and win the majority of their tougher games, the Warriors could close out winning 9 of their last 11, for a total of 52 wins. If the Warriors stumble, look to the Blazers game to decide the playoff seeding race.
Now lets check out our friends in Oregon.
|Portland||Opponent||Location||Days Rest||Opp Wins in Last 10|
The Blazers have a tough road trip that includes Chicago on a back-to-back (after beating Atlanta) followed by hosting Memphis in Portland on one night's rest. Then they get an easier stretch with the Lakers in LA and a home stand with the Suns, the Pelicans, and the Kings, followed by a quick trip to Utah. They then close out at home with tough games against the Warriors and Clippers. The key games are Memphis, Atlanta, and of course the Warriors. The recent loss to Orlando was disappointing, but more than offset by the win in Atlanta in LMA's return. Even if the Blazers continue to break out of their skid and win their should-be-easy games, realistically, they will likely lose at least 3 of their final 11 and end up with 50 wins, most likely as the 6 seed. If it's close with the Warriors down the stretch, that Warriors-Blazers game will be huge, particularly given that a Dub win would give them the tie-breaker.
The Houston schedule is definitely the hardest of the three.
|Houston||Opponent||Location||Days Rest||Opp Wins in Last 10|
The Rockets will next face the hardest four game stretch on any of the schedules: the Clippers, then a road trip against Brooklyn and Toronto back-to-back, followed by a home game against OKC on one night's rest. In light of the injury to Patrick Beverly, that means the Rockets will face Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kyle Lowry, and Russel Westbrook, in a row, without the Rockets' only plus perimeter defender. After that, things lighten with only one premier level opponent -- San Antonio -- left on the schedule. The Rockets do, however, have four games in five nights, including games at Minnesota then home to face the Pelicans on a back-to-back. Two of those games are against Denver, where Ty Lawson likely will give the Beverley-less Rockets a challenge. All told, in addition to 3 games against top-tier opponents, Houston has 7 games against mid-tier opponents mixed in with a lot of travel in a short amount of time. It's remote that Houston will lose the 7-8 games likely necessary to let the Warriors slip past them, but we can hope. I'll be keeping my eyes on the Rockets as they hit the point guard murderer's row (Clippers, Nets, Raptors, and Thunder). If Houston founders and loses four in a row, we've got a chance.