The Golden State Warriors' playoff dreams are looking more and more like a reality as the season edges closer to the All-Star break. The Warriors have dominated a long East Coast road trip, beaten top teams and are just beginning one of the toughest stretches of the season.
Oh yeah, Stephen Curry just experienced his first problems with his surgically repaired ankle and the Dubs are still waiting for their prized big man, Andrew Bogut, to return to the floor.
Curry’s return should be imminent after missing the past two games, and soon the team will get some initial and additional looks at teams they might run into in the playoffs.
As it currently stands, the Warriors will be hard-pressed to inch into one of the top four spots, which are currently being held down by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies.
The Warriors are only two games behind Memphis, but the recently hot Denver Nuggets are on their tail. In order for this season to be a success, the Warriors want to not only make the playoffs, but make it into at least the second round.
The Dubs do match up well with some of the Western Conference teams as you will see.
Stats used in this article were accurate as of January 18, 2013.
The Warriors recently played the Trail Blazers and built up a significant lead until Oakland product Damian Lillard began to rescue the Blazers.
The Dubs held a 20-point lead when Lilliard showed his prowess and started lighting up the scoreboard. Stephen Curry made a few late-game clutch free throws to prevent the Blazers from winning. Lillard went on to score a career-high 37 points.
Besides Lillard, the Warriors controlled the rest of the game. The Warriors defense held Portland to 38 percent shooting and forced 13 turnovers.
The Warriors will face the Blazers only two more times, both late in the season. If the Warriors can put a lid on Lillard and continue to hold down LaMarcus Aldridge, they should easily win the game played at home. The game at the Rose Garden in Portland will be a lot more difficult, but one in which the Warriors should be very competitive.
The Warriors would like to end up with a better record than the Blazers so they don’t have to play the majority of the games in the Rose Garden in a potential playoff series.
The Warriors have excelled against the Minnesota Timberwolves recently. So far this season, the Dubs have beaten the T-Wolves both times they have faced them, once on the road and once at home.
The first trip to Minnesota featured a team without its best player, Kevin Love, and the Warriors controlled the tempo and pace in that game. Harrison Barnes had one of his first coming-out parties by scoring 18 points and pulling down nine boards.
The next meeting was with Love back in the fold and it was the night of the “Flight of the Falcon,” where Barnes earned himself a nomination for NBA dunk of the year and probably an invite to the Slam Dunk competition.
The Dubs had to rally from behind, using a 19-2 run to take the lead and use the Curry and Lee show to guide them to victory.
Both teams are young, and Ricky Rubio has been recently activated for the Wolves, but it will take him a little bit longer to get his legs underneath him.
The Dubs players have a slight advantage in their skill level and NBA IQ. It doesn’t hurt that the Dubs have taken the past 10 out of 12 meetings between the two clubs.
The Utah Jazz are another team that the Warriors match up well against. The Jazz are notoriously good at home, but the Dubs have already gone to Salt Lake and snatched a victory.
Stephen Curry set the tone in the game and was virtually unstoppable. He had a line of 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Curry was very aggressive and showed off his soon-to-be All-Star form.
It didn’t hurt that Andris Biedrins actually made an appearance and looked a little like ex-Jazz monster Marc Eaton. AB corralled 12 boards and was a factor on the defensive side of the court.
Utah’s strength is with its forward positions. They are very deep with Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors to go along with center Al Jefferson.
David Lee and Carl Landry, with either Festus Ezeli or even Biedrins, can hold down their forwards and let the Dubs' perimeter players outplay Utah’s.
Once again, the Dubs need to finish with a better record than the Jazz to stay away from four potential games in Salt Lake. If they do match up, it will be a rematch of the 2007 playoffs' second round and the “We Believe” season.
I am sure all of you can remember the Baron Davis jam over Andrei Kirilekno.
The Warriors only have a 1-3 record versus the Nuggets this season, but Golden State has played well and let those three losses slip out of their hands. In each of the three losses, the Dubs let the Nuggets go on big runs and take the momentum away.
The two main threats for the Nuggets are Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala, who have had strong games in each of the matchups. The Warriors have minimized the rest of the Nugget lineup, but Gallinari and Iguodala have gone off when they made their big runs.
Curry and Lee have had their standard output in these games, but Klay Thompson has really shone bright in the matchups with Denver. If the Warriors face the Nuggets, the rest of the team will need to get more involved.
Defense will have to be one of the keys the Dubs focus on when they play, so when the Warriors build up any kind of lead, they'll keep it and go home with a win.
If the Warriors have to choose any of the top four teams this season, it would probably have to be the Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors have a 2-1 mark so far against them this season and they really have physically dominated those games.
Festus Ezeli and David Lee have stood out in their play against power forward Blake Griffin. Ezeli has been dominant with his blocks and hard fouls, while Lee has played good defense and scolded Griffin for his flopping.
Lee also took advantage of Griffin on offense, where he uses the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop to get easy looks on Griffin. For a big man, Lee’s ability to pass and dribble give him the extra upside.
On the ball movement side of things, Curry has held his own and even showed up Chris Paul, with Curry scoring 23 and 31 points in the first two wins.
The physicality of the two wins led to the Warriors banging the boards hard and winning the rebounding battle. The Warriors will have to do that consistently if they have to meet the Clippers in the playoffs.
This could be one of the most exciting first-round matchups if it happens, though any playoff matchup would soothe Warriors fans' egos.