It’s a big season for the Golden State Warriors as they attempt to defend their NBA title and prove to the haters that they can win without Juan Toscano-Anderson. And they have some huge games (as detailed here) including prominent showcases like the battle with the Memphis Grizzlies on Christmas Day and the return of Damion Lee to the Chase Center on January 10th.
But when looking at the upcoming schedule, it’s important to focus not just on the exciting, triumphant games. We need to look at the miserable games, too - the back-to-backs at the end of road trips, the games before the All-Star Break where veterans are mildly checked out, the trap games in between the marquee games where somehow the tanking San Antonio Spurs pull off a victory. Because the NBA season is an 82-game grind, the Warriors’ stars are mostly over 30, and sometimes the calendar is more unbeatable than the 2016-17 Warriors, or any team with Will Barton when he heats up against Golden State.
Without further ado, the eight most likely schedule losses for the upcoming season.
Friday November 4th - Warriors at New Orleans Pelicans
Five games into the season, the Warriors embark on a brutal road trip where they fly across the country to play five games in seven days. I was tempted to choose the opening game in Charlotte, where the Warriors have lost three straight games, the last two losses hinging on Draymond Green losing jump balls. Seriously. But it’s the Pelicans game that feels like a sure loss - it’s the fifth road game in seven days, the Pelicans are a young, upstart playoff contender, and since it’s early November, Zion Williamson might not even be injured yet! With two off days to follow, this could be a game where Steve Kerr sends Steph, Draymond, and Klay home a day early and lets Jordan Poole try to outscore Brandon Ingram.
Wednesday November 23 - LA Clippers at Warriors
It’s the night before Thanksgiving, a time the Warriors traditionally take their foot off the gas pedal. Last year, they fell way behind the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers before shutting them down in the second half, and in 2018, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat them by 28 points in Oakland. Who was the top scorer for OKC in that game? Paul George, who comes back with the purportedly-healthy Clippers, along with the Board Man himself, Kawhi Leonard.
Why is Thanksgiving Eve tough for the Warriors? Families. How was Steph Curry supposed to completely focus on basketball when he was playing alongside his brother-in-law Damion Lee, facing his brother Seth, who was being coached by his own father-in-law, Doc Rivers? Defensive assignments? He had to think about seating assignments for the next night’s dinner! We hope Draymond isn’t similarly distracted by Ja Morant’s food restrictions during the Christmas Day game.
That’s the power of your voice Young! Let’s goooo! Bring the fam to the crib for dinner after https://t.co/xs8GpKkQtE— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) August 13, 2022
Wednesday December 21 - Warriors at Brooklyn Nets
Between December 13 and December 21, the Warriors go on the road and play six games in nine days, where they face five potential playoff teams (well, play-in teams in the Knicks’ case) and finish in Brooklyn on the second game of a back-to-back. It’s early enough that the Nets won’t have fired Steve Nash or traded Kyrie Irving yet, but late enough that Ben Simmons will have taken the court and T.J. Warren’s foot might finally be healed. And with four days remaining before Christmas, the NBA’s Grinch, Kevin Durant, has plenty of time to prepare his raid on Whoville. He is going to shred Cindy Lou Who on Twitter.
The other loss factor is that while this is a premium matchup, the Warriors will have played four nationally-televised games in the ten days before meeting Brooklyn, and it’s only on NBA TV. Which means Steve Kerr can sit his veterans without incurring the wrath of Adam Silver, who likely prefers that the Dubs are in tip-top shape for Christmas anyway.
Sunday January 15 - Warriors at Chicago Bulls
We are going to hedge a bit and say that the MLK Day matchup with the Washington Wizards the next day could also be a schedule loss - but it will be one of the two. We are going with the Bulls game for a few reasons. First, it’s a road game that starts at the awkward time of 2:30 PM Central. Second, it’s against the Chicago Bulls, a team that was leading the Eastern Conference last year before Grayson Allen’s dirty foul on Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball’s meniscus derailed their season. Did Lonzo and James Wiseman see the same knee surgeon?
When the Bulls were rolling last year, it was because Ball and Caruso were causing so many turnovers on the perimeter that it didn’t matter that Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan were two of the other defenders. And when the Warriors get into trouble and blow winnable games, the most likely culprit is a whole bunch of turnovers. Maybe they hold off the Bulls, but then that Wizards game is a loss. There’s simply no way they’re winning both ends of a road back-to-back when the games are starting around noon in San Francisco.
Friday January 20 - Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers
Yes, the Warriors haven’t lost a game in Cleveland since Game 4 of the 2017 Finals, and even that required the Cavs to shoot 24-45 from three-point range and the referees to call 12 fouls on the Warriors in the first quarter. But this game happens one night after a Finals rematch in Boston, a game that will be televised on TNT, and for which Boston fans are already working on mean signs about Ayesha Curry’s cooking. That’s the game the Warriors will get up for, and the Cleveland game is the end of a five-game road trip where the team flies over 4,000 miles in eight days. It’s a classic trap game, and Cavs stud guard Darius Garland is exactly the kind of player who can take advantage of an insufficiently motivated opponent.
Thursday February 2 - Warriors at Denver Nuggets
If Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. can come back from injury at even 90% of what they once were, this Nuggets team is going to be very tough to beat. And especially tough to beat when the Warriors have to fly 700 miles and go up 4,500 feet in elevation, arriving in town after midnight. The NBA should really try to make Utah and Denver an automatic back-to-back, because this Warriors road trip has them bouncing between Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, and Denver. While those teams may all be in the same division, they are not at all close to one another. All in all, the Warriors will be flying just under 4,000 miles in roughly 3 ½ days for this “mini” road trip.
Sunday March 4 - Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers
This is not an endorsement of the Lakers, who somehow got older in the past week by bringing in Patrick “The Next Five Years Are Mine” Beverley. But this game takes place the day after Draymond Green’s 33rd birthday, traditionally a time Draymond likes to “shift into birthday mode.” Dray won’t have a lot of time to recover, because the game starts at 12:30 PM. That early start means it’ll be very difficult for Klay Thompson to jump in the ocean and make it all the way back to downtown LA for the game. Anthony Davis and LeBron James may have been slowing down last year, but Saturday night in Los Angeles never takes a play off.
Saturday March 18 - Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies
The Warriors stopped Dillon Brooks’ budding dynasty last year in the playoffs, and the Grizzlies have proven they can take revenge on the older Warriors…in the regular season. This is the third game of a road trip that sends the Dubs from LA to Atlanta, and they hit Memphis on a back-to-back. In a very similar situation last year, Memphis trounced the Warriors 123-95, with Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson all sitting with rest or injury at the end of a five-game road trip, which was also a back-to-back. After what was probably the low point of the Warriors’ entire season, Jaren Jackson Junior infuriated Klay Thompson by tweeting “Strength in numbers” after the rout.
Strength in numbers— JJJ (@jarenjacksonjr) March 29, 2022
Despite the high-profile matchup, it’s only on NBA TV, which means Kerr very well could sit his veterans again. It’s going to be a loss; the only question is whether it’ll be Xavier Tillman or Brandon Clarke who tweets “Night night” after the game.