The Golden State Warriors face a difficult task as they approach the middle of a shortened season. The Warriors come out of the All-star break with five road games against Eastern Conference opponents.
The team is currently sitting three games behind the eighth place Portland Trail Blazers with a 13-17 record.
With a franchise that’s made the playoffs just once since 1994, the Bay Area fans—as loyal as they are—have grown accustomed to the Warriors underperforming.
As history would dictate, this upcoming stretch of games is one that would typically serve as a knockout punch to the Warriors’ playoff dreams. But if the team could somehow emerge victorious in most of these contests, perhaps coach Mark Jackson’s preseason expectations wont be looking so lofty.
For the first three games of the second half, the Warriors play top-tier Eastern Conference teams in Indiana, Atlanta and Philadelphia. All of those teams play well in their own buildings.
Golden State has been poor on the road so far this season, going just 4-8 away from Oracle Arena.
However, the Warriors will look to ride the momentum that came from getting a huge monkey off of their backs with a 106-104 road win against the Phoenix Suns. A late fadeaway jumper from Monta Ellis snapped a 13-game losing streak at U.S. Airways Center dating back to 2005,
The Suns have struggled this year, but the win in Phoenix offers a glimmer of hope for Warriors fans as it could be a sign that the team is finally turning the corner.
Realistically, the Warriors would be fortunate to take one out of their next three games. They lost 94-91 at home to Indiana back on Jan. 20, when Pacers small forward Danny Granger put up 26 points and center Roy Hibbert out-muscled the Warriors on the glass with 16 boards.
The 76ers trounced the Warriors 107-79 at Oracle Arena on New Year’s Eve. Philadelphia had strong performances that night from point guard Lou Williams, who was the leading scorer with 23 points, and small forward Andre Iguodala, who dished out seven assists.
The Warriors haven’t played Atlanta yet. The Hawks have done well in spite of losing star center Al Horford, with power forward Josh Smith shouldering the load. But they have struggled as of late, going 4-6 in their last 10 games.
Toronto and Washington are both near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, with pitiful home records of 5-11 and 4-13, respectively. The Warriors should win both of these games, but that’s easier said than done.
The danger here is the Warriors could let one or both of these games slip away since a road trip like this is often mentally and physically draining.
This is a road trip that could set up the Warriors for the playoff chase if they do well. It’s also a stretch of games that could derail their season if they play poorly.
They’ll need continual scoring from Ellis, strong outings from a hopefully-healthy Stephen Curry, and improved play from small forward Dorell Wright and center Andris Biedrins. And it wouldn’t hurt if they played a little of that tough defense that Mark Jackson is always preaching.
Golden State needs more consistency as a unit for the second half of the season. It’s puzzling to think about how the Warriors have dropped games to the Nets, Bobcats, and Kings in the same season that they’ve beaten the Knicks, Heat, and Bulls.
If the Warriors play the way they are capable of playing, they should be able to snatch one of the first three road games and take care of business with wins in Toronto and Washington.
If they do that, they’ll be in decent shape to start the second half of the season.