Best and Worst Case Playoff Opponents for the Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have proved that they belong in the playoffs this season. They are currently chasing the Los Angeles Clippers for the Pacific Division crown, but the Dubs are firmly entrenched in the middle of the top eight in the Western Conference.
During their last playoff run in 2007-08, the Warriors were lucky enough to get the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks, who the Warriors shocked during the “We Believe” season. The Dubs then ran into problems against the Utah Jazz and were sent home.
This season, the Warriors are looking to get a favorable first-round matchup. They have fared well against most of the Western Conference teams, but there are still a few opponents that the Warriors would like to avoid.
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Best Matchups: Los Angeles Clippers
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 finished the season series with a 3-1 record versus the other L.A. squad and really showed off their physicality.
The Warriors did all of that without the help of their center, Andrew Bogut. He missed the first matchup because he wasn’t playing the back end of back-to-back games. He missed the other three confrontations because he was still rehabilitating the injury.
Blake Griffin was basically shut down by the physical play of backup center Festus Ezeli and All-Star David Lee. Ezeli stepped in for Bogut in the block department and swatted away some of Griffin’s attempts. He also fouled Griffin hard and shook up Blake’s confidence.
Lee, on the other hand, took advantage of Griffin on the offensive side of the ball and lashed out at him for his acting talents. Lee took advantage of the pick and roll and pick and pop to get good looks at the basket. His ability to pass, handle the ball and dribble for a big man helped exploit Griffin even more.
Stephen Curry has outplayed Chris Paul in both of the matchups. During the final meeting, Curry was hot from behind the arc and hit six out of eight attempts. He was the leading scorer and iced the game with clutch free throws.
This could be one of the most exciting matchups if they meet.
Best Matchups: Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz are another team that the Warriors match up well against. The Warriors went into Utah, where the Jazz are usually dominant, and took away a victory.
The Jazz have strong depth in the frontcourt, so guard Stephen Curry took advantage of their backcourt. He set the tone early in that game and was almost unstoppable. He had a line of 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
The Warriors played that game without the services of Andrew Bogut, but there was a major surprise appearance by Andris Biedrins, who looked a little like his old self. Biedrins ripped down 12 boards and was a major factor on the defensive side of the court.
Utah’s strength is with its forward positions, with Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors to go along with center Al Jefferson. David Lee and Carl Landry, now with Bogut back in the fold, can hold down their forwards and let the perimeter players of the Dubs outplay Utah’s.
The Dubs finished their toughest month of the schedule in January and should 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 2007 and the “We Believe” season.
Best Matchups: Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies have owned the Golden State Warriors so far this season with two solid wins, one including center Andrew Bogut. Bogut had the crucial block on center Marc Gasol, but the Grizzlies picked it up and won the game.
Bogut wasn’t back for the rematch in Memphis and the Grizzlies had their way with the Dubs. Mark Jackson called the Grizzlies the “best frontline in basketball” before the Warriors lost the second matchup.
However, since that matchup, the Grizz have traded away Rudy Gay in order to receive Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. They also traded Marreese Speights and company for forward Jon Leuer in order to relieve salary problems.
All in all, the subtractions were far more significant than the additions, leaving the Grizzlies prone to the depth of the Warriors' roster. The Dubs match up a lot better now with the loss of talent on the Grizzlies squad.
The addition of Bogut, with the standard lineup of Curry, Thompson, Barnes and Lee, should be able to take advantage of their lineup, outrebound and outplay Memphis in order to advance to the next round.
Worst Matchups: San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs would probably be the worst matchup for the Warriors. The Warriors have lost 28 straight in the Alamo city, with their last win dating back to last century. That was also the last time the Warriors had an All-Star before David Lee. The date of that victory was February 14, 1997.
The Warriors played a very competitive game this season in San Antonio, but they came up short. The Spurs were playing without Manu Ginobili, who has always been a problem for the Warriors.
The Warriors' last win against the Spurs was back on January 7, 2008, when the Warriors had to take the Spurs to OT to get the win. Since the 1996-97 season, the Spurs have pretty much owned the Warriors.
The Warriors will be a lot more competitive with Andrew Bogut playing against the Spurs, but if the Warriors have to play four in San Antonio, their chances are slim. Stranger things have happened, but it doesn’t look so good for the Warriors with this matchup.
Worst Matchups: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Golden State Warriors won a hard-fought matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 23, 2013. The Warriors made some key defensive stops and converted when they needed to in order to get the win.
Stephen Curry had another All-Star type game and really shut down Thunder guard Russell Westbrook. Curry scored 31 points with seven helpers to close out the game for the Dubs.
That is the good news. The Warriors had lost five straight games to the Thunder before getting the victory and were blown out in their first game in OKC on November 18, 2012.
Kevin Durant picked up his first triple-double in that game, where the Warriors only closed the gap during garbage time.
Yes, the Warriors have beaten the Thunder this season. However, even with the help of a healthy Bogut, the Thunder pose a very difficult matchup, especially going against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.
Worst Matchups: Denver Nuggets
About a month ago, I thought the Denver Nuggets would be a good matchup for the Warriors. Denver has won three out of four games this season, and during the first two, the Warriors should have pulled them out. The Nuggets have also rolled off two six-game winning streaks since the start of January.
The Dubs have played well, but they let those three losses slip out of their hands. In each of the three loses, 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.
The Warriors have also had problems with rebounding in those games. The Warriors have a record of 23-3 when outrebounding their opponents as of February 2nd. In the four games against the Nuggets, the Warriors have outrebounded the Nuggets three times, but have gone 1-3 in those matchups.
Kenneth Faried is the guy who cleans the glass the most for the Nuggets, followed by center Kosta Koufos.
Defense will have to be one of the keys the Dubs focus on if they play, so when the Warriors build up any kind of lead, they need to keep it and go home with a win. They haven’t had that success so far this season.