The Golden State Warriors have distinguished themselves as the team to beat in a Western Conference loaded with formidable NBA Finals contenders.
Catalyzed by a Splash Brothers backcourt featuring MVP candidate Stephen Curry and tremendous 2-guard Klay Thompson, Golden State also has a deep bench and other young talent to lean on.
Youth can be a double-edged sword. While these Warriors should be fresher than other aging squads, such as San Antonio, their collective experience isn't as strong. At least the current core has been to the playoffs before, though never advancing past the conference semifinals.
This could be the year for the Dubs to take that next step. Check out the team's first-round postseason schedule below, along with predictions as to how their first series will play out.
|Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans TV Info|
|1||Saturday, April 18||New Orleans at Golden State||3:30 p.m.||ABC/ESPN|
|2||Monday, April 20||New Orleans at Golden State||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|3||Thursday, April 23||Golden State at New Orleans||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4||Saturday, April 25||Golden State at New Orleans||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|5*||Tuesday, April 28||New Orleans at Golden State||TBA||TBA|
|6*||Friday, May 1||Golden State at New Orleans||TBA||TBA|
|7*||Sunday, May 3||New Orleans at Golden State||TBA||TBA|
|*if necessary (NBA.com)|
Warriors Playoff Preview, Predictions
Even in the Western Conference, facing the eighth seed isn't the easiest first-round proposition, but the Warriors will be dreaming larger than advancing to the conference semis and exiting.
Just about all the New Orleans Pelicans have to hang their hat on is young stud big man Anthony Davis. They don't have enough firepower from the perimeter, even with Jrue Holiday's return and Tyreke Evans' strong form, to get more than a game off Golden State.
There's also the incentive of facing the Los Angeles Clippers in the next round for the Warriors, which is a possibility. The two squads have a budding rivalry going on that would be fascinating to see unfold in a playoff atmosphere.
LA will be led by Chris Paul, whose own struggles to get past the conference semis are well documented as he prepares to turn 30 in May. Watching him and Curry go head-to-head is a true treat.
CBS Sports' Doug Gottlieb explains how Curry ought to be fresh for what promises to be a demanding postseason path ahead:
Prior to the regular-season finale, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News highlighted how dominant Golden State has been this season:
A late surge by the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs may prevent the Clippers from meeting Golden State. It's a dangerous matchup for the Warriors due to the aforementioned experience disparity and the innate chemistry the Spurs have.
But as long as the Warriors can stay healthy, they figure to represent the West in the NBA Finals. Former All-Stars in power forward David Lee and lockdown perimeter defender Andre Iguodala come off the bench for the Dubs—a testament to just how deep coach Steve Kerr's team is.
Synergy Sports Tech notes how much of a flamethrower Curry has been from beyond the arc of late:
Warriors CEO Joe Lacob explained how the organization's aspirations have grown amid a breakout year, per CSN Bay Area's Monte Poole:
We all had a dream, or goals, to get to the Western Conference Finals this year—to be top-four in the league and get homecourt, because we've not had that yet. That was the next level of achievement. To get to the Western Conference Finals was sort of my goal for the team.
No one has complained about their fluctuating roles, as Curry and Thompson have commanded the spotlight. Young starters Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green have been unfazed despite the Warriors having had an X on their backs as the team to beat in the West amid a sensational 2014-15 campaign.
The presence of Andrew Bogut in the paint is huge on both ends of the floor. Bogut can block and alter shots and finish at the rim, and he is a tremendous passer who helps Golden State's high-octane offense operate at an elite level.
Both Atlanta and Cleveland present a prospective challenge in the hunt for the Larry O'Brien trophy. However, with how consistently well Golden State has played in the superior conference, it'd be a surprise to see the Warriors fall if they do come out of the West.
The fact that Golden State has stood out so glaringly this season shows that it is ready to reach the apex of the NBA. Curry, Thompson and Co. have the goods to carry this team to a championship, and smart money says they get it done.