Golden State Warriors: Make-or-Break Games in March
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Golden State Warriors will have to fight tooth and nail to make the playoffs. With a record of 13-17, they are only one game behind the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately for them, the Western Conference is highly competitive. The Warriors are three games behind the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers.
Only two full months of basketball remain. While every single game of the remaining 36 is make-or-break for the Warriors’ playoff hopes, let’s take a look at five that every Warriors fan should have marked down on their calendar up to April.
Continuing the Pre-All-Star Streak
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Date: February 28th
Opponent: Indiana Pacers
Making the playoffs without Stephen Curry turns a difficult task into a Herculean one. Curry suffered another injury last night in Phoenix, straining the posterior tibialis tendon in his right foot. According to Curry’s agent, Lance Young, Curry may not miss any regular-season games.
The Warriors will need a healthy Curry to continue their current two-game win streak entering the All-Star break.
Golden State relies on its high-scoring backcourt to succeed. If Curry misses any time, the team will not be competing in May.
Through the month of February, the Warriors have been a team of streaks; no win or loss came alone. They play five straight games on the road starting with this one must-win game against the Washington Wizards.
While not technically in the month of March, this game in February is arguably the most important and will set the tone for the remainder of the season.
Consistency Is Key
Date: March 6th
Opponent: Washington Wizards
If the team wants to discard their losing reputation, they’ll have to beat opponents that they should, day in and day out.
The Washington Wizards will be an excellent litmus test of consistency. The Warriors fly to Washington D.C. immediately following a game against the Toronto Raptors. The NBA season is long and tiring; the mark of a good team is consistency.
Key Matchup: Battle of the Centers
JaVale McGee is a legit seven-footer. He’s athletic and strong. Warriors center Ekpe Udoh has a difficult time containing larger opponents. While McGee is not a post scorer, he is a beast on the offensive boards, averaging 3.1 a game this season according to Basketball Reference.
If the Warriors are lucky, McGee will be his own worst enemy and commit a few mental lapses.
Dethroning Playoff Seeds
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Date: March 7th
Opponent: Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are leading the season series 2-0 and are just barely holding onto the seventh seed.
The Warriors have not done well against other Western Conference teams, going 8-12 in the conference. To gain ground, they’ll have to defeat teams like the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies are talented. They’re anchored by All-Star Marc Gasol and have a great mix of defensive and offensive talent with Tony Allen, Rudy Gay and bench scorer O.J. Mayo.
Key Matchup: Monta Ellis and Tony Allen
Tony Allen is a terrific defender and the reason he is a starting shooting guard in the NBA despite only averaging 10.9 points per game this season.
That didn’t stop Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry from scoring 69 points in their last meeting on February 18th. The Warriors will need a repeat performance for a chance to take this game.
Winning on the Road
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Date: March 17th
Opponent: Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz are another team in the hunt for the playoffs. They’re just one game ahead of the Warriors and will meet two more times this season.
The Warriors have struggled on the road, going 4-8 this season. That does not bode well, considering 21 of the remaining 36 games are on the road. According to stats from Mcubed, they’re especially bad in Utah, winning a total of six regular-season games there since 1990. Just six in all of 12 years!
On the end of a back-to-back, chances are slim the Warriors leave Utah with the victory. Still, this season has been one of bucking trends. They finally won one in Phoenix after 13 straight losses there.
Key Matchup: Al Jefferson and Andris Biedrins
Al Jefferson is a bona fide post scorer. I can’t name a center playing in the NBA that has more moves down low. In their last meeting on February 2nd, Andris Biedrins played respectable defense. Although he did not score a single point in 27 minutes of play, he left a positive impact on the floor, going plus-five for the game.
Biedrins has played extremely limited minutes of late and hasn’t logged more than 25 since the victory over Utah. If Biedrins can raise his level of play, the Warriors have a fighting chance in the notoriously loud EnergySolutions Arena.
Knocking out the Competition
Just one of many weapons.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Date: March 19th
Opponent: Minnesota Timberwolves
Like the Memphis Grizzlies, the Minnesota Timberwolves are right in the pack of playoff contenders. The T-Wolves are just two games ahead of the Warriors and one game behind the eighth seed. Any loss to a close competitor shuts the door on the Warriors' playoff pipe dream.
Key Concern: J.J. Barea
The Warriors and Timberwolves have yet to face off this season. While Kevin Love is a player teams must always game-plan for, J.J. Barea may prove the most problematic. Barea will challenge the Warriors guards with his speed and penetration and is a capable scorer in limited minutes. Per 36 minutes played, Barea is averaging 18.8 points.
As mentioned previously, every single game counts. The Warriors' schedule ramps up in difficulty after the break. While I picked five games that are must-wins, realistically all of them are.
The Warriors have notoriously struggled when visiting opponents. To gain respectability in the league, they'll have to win and to win consistently, especially on the road. Only 15 of the remaining 36 games are at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have shown that they can play with the best of the best. They'll have to prove the same on the road.