Saturday’s surprising win over the heavily favored Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center – that came without Andrew Bogut and the team reeling from the previous night’s injury to Brandon Rush, remember – put the Warriors in unfamiliar territory. Not only does Golden State sit alone at the top of the Pacific Division, but their 2-0 record on the road is the organization’s first such start in 18 years. Not a bad silver lining to a season already marred by major injury questions.
The optimism gleaned from this solid start to the season will matter little, though, if the Warriors slip up in tonight’s road game against Sacramento or Wednesday’s matchup with Cleveland at Oracle Arena. We touched on this in examining Golden State’s first quarter, but the schedule-makers did the team no favors with regard to 2012-2013′s early slate. That is, except for this week’s early games before the Warriors head back to Staples on Friday night to face a rejuvenated Lakers team hungry for validation.
In predicting a 14-13 first quarter for the Warriors, we assumed they’d navigate a tough mid-late November stretch by playing below .500 basketball. That was hardly an indication of this team’s present or potential ability, either; just a cold reality based on GSW playing 11 straight likely playoff teams from this Friday to December 1st. Even the league’s best teams would struggle to emerge from the season’s first month with their head above .500 water facing such a daunting task, so thinking a team in transition like the Warriors would was to set ourselves up for disappointment.
But go into that murderer’s row of games with a 4-1 record? That leaves more room for error than we anticipated and a real opportunity for the Warriors to end the first quarter with more wins than losses, especially when you consider the schedule’s ease once that stretch ends against Indiana at Oracle on December 1st. 11 games remain in the first quarter from that point to its end three weeks later, with five of them coming against the true dregs of the league – Charlotte twice, Sacramento, Detroit, and Washington – and three more against lottery-bound teams Orlando (twice) and New Orleans. And even of the three remaining contests – at Brooklyn, Miami, and Atlanta – only the median is of the true “unwinnable” category.
Add all this up and the Warriors could be primed for an even more successful quarter than our initial projection suggested. But that all hinges on Golden State’s games this week against the lowly Kings and Cavaliers, teams even the most pessimistic Dubs fan would admit are very, very beatable.
So is it time to revise our prediction? Not quite. Again, a 14-13 first quarter for this team would be a solid one and keep them right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. But before the Warriors’ 2-1 start to the season that seemed an optimistic thought given questions surrounding the roster and an exceedingly tough end-of-November slate. Now, though, it’s at least as likely as it is otherwise, real progress the organization and their fans should revel in. As long as they take care of business this week against the Kings and Cavs, that is.
Follow Jack Winter on Twitter @armstrongwinter