By: Sam Sorkin
Warriors Schedule Released: Hello National TV!
The NBA Schedule was released last week with much fanfare, and Golden State opens up the season at home against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, October 30. After upsetting the Denver Nuggets in a highlight-filled first round series and making the Western Conference Semifinals, acquiring Andre Iguodala in the offseason while keeping their young core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes, major TV networks have taken note of the rising Warriors. ABC, ESPN, and TNT have scheduled 17 Warriors games to appear on their stations, marking a franchise record for national television broadcasts.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes look to lead the Warriors into the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in two decades. NBAE/Getty Images
The Warriors will play on Christmas as part of the NBA’s marquee quintuplet of contests, hosting Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and the division rival Los Angeles Clippers at 7:30 PM (ESPN) in Oakland. On Martin Luther King Day, Golden State will host the Indiana Pacers, who came within one game of the NBA Finals last season. Golden State also plays on New Years’ Eve at the Orlando Magic, at 2 PM Pacific time. In a meeting between two of the league’s earliest franchises, the Warriors travel to Madison Square Garden in New York February 28 (ESPN) to face the Knicks, the site of Stephen Curry’s 54-point explosion last season.
Derrick Rose will make his long-awaited return to the court this season, and his Chicago Bulls visit Oracle Thursday, February 6th (TNT); the two-time defending champion Miami Heat play in Golden State the next week on Wednesday, February 12; and the Brooklyn Nets, who acquired future Hall-of-Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a blockbuster deal during the offseason, make their way to the Bay Area later in the month on Saturday, February 22.
The Warriors will see 2011 MVP Derrick Rose make his return to Oracle February 6, and later in February King James and the two-time defending champion Heat will visit Oracle. Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images
All Golden State home games will have a scheduled tip-off time of 7:30 PM, save for four Sunday games – Portland on January 26, Phoenix March 9, New York on March 30, and Utah April 6.
While Golden State begins the season at home, they will be on the road for 14 of their first 22 games. The Warriors will have a season-high seven-game road trip starting December 29 in Cleveland and ending January 8 against the Brooklyn Nets. Golden State’s schedule also features a six-game trek beginning February 24 in Detroit, and coming to an end with a back-to-back in Indiana and Boston on March 4 and 5.
The Warriors have 15 back-to-backs during the 2013-2014 season, which equals the lowest for the franchise since its move to the West Coast in 1962. The fifteen back-to-backs are set as follows: four home/road, eight road/road, and three road/home.
The month of October starts off with a home/road back-to-back against the Lakers Opening Night and at the Clippers on Halloween. The game against the Clippers will be a big barometer of if the Warriors could be considered early contenders for the West, as it will be on the road facing a division rival in the second game of a back-to-back. The Warriors finished 10-10 in the second game of their 20 back-to-backs last year, via NBA.com’s stats database, and they must do better in these types of games if they wish to gain home court in the West.
Look for the Warriors to take advantage of a stretch in mid-November where they play five of nine at home, a third of their games are against the Jazz and the Dwight-less Lakers, and their only tough games, against Oklahoma City and Memphis, are at home. I would consider seven wins to be a good goal, and if they could win eight, even better.
However, I think Golden State may struggle during the month of February, when they play many of the East’s marquee teams. An important eight-game spell that could make or break their shot at home-court advantage during this month features difficult games against Miami, Chicago, and Houston. The Warriors have a few “trap games” during this month, such as the first night of a back-to-back in Sacramento, where the Dubs always seem to have wild nights (Golden State lost both games in Sac-town last year by a combined six points). The game versus the Kings is sandwiched between Miami and a nationally televised home game against the Rockets, who both defeated the Warriors in Oracle last year. Golden State then plays three of four on the road, facing the much improved Brooklyn Nets, at the who-knows-what-they’ll-be Pistons, and at Chicago and New York to end the month. Depending on if the new-look Pistons have figured anything out by this point, Golden State potentially might lose six or seven of these eight games, which would probably drop them out of contention for home-court. This is a situation where the Warriors could assert themselves as contenders for not only home-court advantage but possibly the two or three seed in the West if the Dubs could win five or six during this eight-game stretch.
As the season winds down and the Warriors jockey for playoff position, they will play 13 of their final 20 games at home. Golden State’s final nine games will be against Western Conference opposition, ending the season in Denver against the Nuggets on April 16.
Andrew Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
In my estimation, to have a realistic shot at home-court advantage in the Western Conference and to emerge from the West, Golden State must win at least 54 games. The additions of defensive stalwart Toney Douglas, a full season of Andrew Bogut, and the free-agent signing of perhaps the NBA’s premier perimeter defender in Andre Iguodala should definitely help shore up the Warriors’ defense. Last season, the Warriors ranked thirteenth in giving up 102.6 points per one hundred possessions, from the NBA.com stats database. Zach Lowe of Grantland.com wrote an interesting tidbit that very much applies to this years’ Warriors - “Teams can win the championship with elite offense and borderline top-ten defense, as the Mavericks did in 2011.” If the Warriors can in fact improve their defense to a top-ten level, coupled with their offensive stars in the Splash Brothers and David Lee, that’s a talented and terrifying team to face come the playoffs.
The Warriors are looking to make back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since the Run-TMC era of the 1990s, and with their young core, versatility, and depth at many positions, it looks like a special year for Golden State.