The Week that Was:
It may not have felt like it during Wednesday’s surprisingly close win against the Bucks but this turned out to be a very good week for the Warriors. Even though the Mavericks and Clippers are not playing their best basketball at the moment, getting comfortable wins against them shows this team’s talent and makes it much harder for any team to catch them for homecourt in the Western Conference.
In addition, we saw Shaun Livingston’s best game of the season (against the team that drafted him which I am sure felt great for Livingston) and a nice Klay Thompson performance against the Suns after he struggled for a few games.
A little over a month is plenty of time for players and teams to start and end slumps but the Dubs are in a very good place right now.
With a 5.5 game lead and exactly 20 games to go, the Warriors have the #1 seed in the Western Conference pretty much salted away unless something terrible happens, especially considering their light schedule from now until the last week of March.
While that understanding makes most things substantially easier, it does raise a compelling and important question: what should they do now?
There are two primary factors to consider: health and homecourt advantage in the NBA Finals. To me, the priority has to be health because we already know that the Warriors will have a tough first-round series, likely against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Golden State will benefit from the fact that OKC will have to battle to even make it in and thus cannot afford to rest their stars. As great as the Warriors bench has played this season, any injury to a starter would cause ripple effects because it would weaken the starters and the bench at the same time even with a tighter playoff rotation.
Something else to remember is that the best record in the NBA only matters to Golden State if the Hawks make the NBA Finals too. While they should be considered the favorites to make it out of the East, any slip up to Cleveland, Chicago or someone else would mean Game Seven at Oracle as far as they go. Additionally, Atlanta will clinch the best record in the East long before the Dubs and could take a similar tact in terms of resting their best players.
While not mutually exclusive, prioritizing toning down the minutes and spending some time experimenting with potentially dangerous lineups like Curry, Klay and Livingston sharing the court over gunning to stay above Atlanta makes the most sense for maximizing Golden State’s opportunity for playoff success.
The Week to Come:
One of the easier seven day stretches of the season for the Warriors despite a back-to-back.
They start the week returning home to face the Pistons (though Stan Van Gundy teams have given the Warriors trouble in the past, this is a different Golden State squad) and then head to Denver for a game against the Nuggets that should be very winnable despite the travel element.
From there, the Dubs return home to face the Murderer’s Row of the Knicks and Lakers.
A 4-0 week should be expected but it could end up 3-1 because those things happen at this point in the season.