Every franchise in every league in every sport publicly subscribes to the old and tired adage of “taking the season one game at a time.” It gives a team a security blanket in the case of an underwhelming loss or two, and helps keep things in perspective if they enjoy a run of success. It’s a theme that trickles down from the front office and public relations to placate the fans and media, mostly, but “one game at a time” is a good thought in practice for players and coaches nonetheless.
There’s no way to tell whether a particular team actually believes it or not, but in the NBA especially doing so seems a tough proposition. No league is more demanding from a games, practices, energy/effort output standpoint, with back-to-backs, cross-country roadtrips, daily workouts, and incessant media obligations dominating a too-long 82 game schedule. A game at a time, then, just doesn’t seem feasible.
Take this Warriors February roadtrip, for example: 2/24 at Minnesota, 2/26 at Indiana, 2/27 at New York, 3/1 at Boston, 3/2 at Philadelphia. That’s five games in five cities in seven days, a stretch front and back ended with tilts at Oracle against San Antonio on February 22nd and Toronto on March 4th. And the Warriors – more than 50 games and four months into the season, mind you – are expected to maintain the “one game at a time” attitude after hosting the Spurs knowing the brutal travel stretch that awaits? Their mind is supposed to be solely on the Timberwolves as their flight leaves the Bay Area as opposed to the whole roadtrip in general? That’s an unrealistic expectation, and those within the organization know it even if they won’t admit otherwise publicly.
So how can the Warriors (and their fans) strike a balance between competing and focusing night-to-night while maintaining a sense of the bigger picture? By breaking the season into quarters with an initial goal of wins and losses for each. This is a fairly common practice in football, and NBA teams do something similar for portions of the season pre and post All-Star break.
Instead of making each quarter an equal 21 games, they’re assigned and broken down by identifying stretches of the schedule that have some semblance of continuity. An especially road-heavy or easy part of the season compared to another could a quarter make, just as portions of the year that are peppered with tough home games could, too.
We’ll cover each quarter as the season goes on and the next one approaches.
First Quarter: October 31st to December 21st
- 27 games
- 11 home :: 16 away
- Games against Hollinger playoff teams: 15
- Toughest five game stretch: at Minnesota, at Oklahoma City, at Dallas, vs. Brooklyn, at Denver (November 16-November 23)
- Easiest five game stretch: at Orlando, at Atlanta, vs. New Orleans, at Sacramento, vs. Charlotte (December 14-December 21)
- Mitigating factors: Andrew Bogut’s absence/adjustment period, majority of rotation is new to team, Harrison Barnes starting instead of Brandon Rush
- Best Case: 17-10
- Worst Case: 10-17
- Prediction: 14-13