Overall, the Golden State Warriors have done well in the first part of the season. Standing at 30-22, the Warriors currently own the sixth seed in the Western Conference. In just his second year as head coach, Golden State is beginning to take the shape of Mark Jackson’s identity. Compared to last year, the Warriors are bigger, tougher and play defense. Led by David Lee and Stephen Curry, Golden State is beginning to make noise in the NBA.
But after a hot start, the Warriors have gone on a five-game skid. During their losing streak, the team has surrendered an average of 118 points while allowing their opponent to shoot 48.8 percent from the field and just over 43 percent from three. They have also been outrebounded in four of those games.
While those numbers are a bit discerning, Golden State actually excels in those areas. Ranking seventh in opponent’s field goal percentage and third in rebounding, the Warriors should play more to their means entering the second half. Perhaps fatigue, a shoulder injury to Jarrett Jack and the gradual incorporation of Andrew Bogut into the lineup played a role in their cold spell. The All-Star break could not have come at a better time.
There are 30 games remaining, so Jackson’s Warriors must come out firing. After ending the first half on a down note, the Warriors need to rebuild their confidence and gain momentum entering March. Facing off against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, Golden State already has a steep challenge out of the gate. The Jazz aren’t far behind the Warriors, and if they win, they’ll pull even closer to the sixth seed. After them, the Warriors will square off against high-caliber teams in the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks.
Aside from those matchups, the rest of the schedule appears favorable. Eighteen games will take place at Oracle Arena, including a seven-game home stand in the beginning of March. Playing in front of their fans, the Warriors have gone 16-7, compared to just 14-15 away from Oakland. Whatever the reason, the young ball club seems to draw its energy from the raucous crowd.
If the Warriors have aspirations of making the playoffs, they’ll need to win about 17 games minimum. From the roster to the coaching staff, they have the talent to do just that. The team can score in a variety of ways, and they now have the personnel to play defense.
Lee and Curry may have received All-Star recognition, but if Golden State wants to be serious playoff contenders, Bogut is the one who takes them over the top. He’s their x-factor. On offense, he’s an outstanding passer for a big man. If he gets double-teamed, he has the skills to kick it out to the perimeter shooters, or dish the ball off to Lee in the post. The Aussie is also an efficient scorer, as he has made 61.5 percent of his buckets inside the paint this year.
A host of teams in the West feature low-post scorers, but Bogut possesses the length to give them some problems. In the midst of recovering from his ankle injury, the eighth-year big man remains an above-average defender. Playing on a limited basis at 22.5 minutes per game, he still averages 1.6 blocks, leading the team. If he can slowly regain his old form, the Warriors should begin to resemble the defense they displayed earlier in the season. Having him begin to play in back-to-backs would certainly help.
With the way the situation is setting up, I expect the Warriors to make the postseason as the seventh or eighth seed. The break has given the team time to rest, the remaining schedule works into their favor and Bogut is building chemistry with his teammates. Assuming he continues to progress, Golden State will feature a balanced roster that can compete on both ends of the floor. They’ve always been reliant on scoring, but their defense is a major factor in their turnaround.
It’s been six years since the Warriors made the postseason, and we saw what they were capable of. The “We Believe” era may be over, but Jackson and Co. are ready to start a new one.
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