After 44 games, the Warriors sit with a 40-4 record. Their injury crisis that had been plaguing them for the last 20 or so games have been abated. Their biggest morale booster is the return of Coach Kerr to take the reins of the team. Walton in his own right, has done a tremendous job. On the flip side, the Warriors are now heading into the most competitive part of the season.
On Monday night, they will be taking on the ever persistent San Antonio Spurs. Compared to last year, the Spurs are 11 games better than last season with a 38-6 record. Both are perfect at home. This will be the first major test for the Warriors if they want to better the 72-10 record of Chicago. Four games against the most consistent team of the NBA, who currently have momentum having won 9 out of 9 in January so far. They will no doubt have their perfect home record challenged. Spurs, led by Leonard and Aldridge have had reliable performances from their starters and bench players, who can score close to 50 points a match. The fact that players are averaging just around 30 minutes a game, leaves them fresher. The Spurs have the most effective defence heading into the game, led by Leonard who is the defensive player of the year. Warriors on the other hand, have the hottest attack, ensuring a sizzling match up.
After the match, they will face the Spurs 3 more times, making these 4 matches, the more unlikely of matches to win for the Warriors.
They are yet to play to high flying Oklahoma City Thunder, led by a now fit Durant and the ever explosive Russell Westbrook. Last season, in their first meeting Durant poured 30 points in 18 minutes before limping out injured. This time, Donovan has proven he is a flexible coach with no fixed game plan, and Durant and Westbrook, while being two of the top scorers in the league, are also alleviating their teammate’s performance, seen by the work of Enes Kanter, Ibaka, Payne and Waiters. The Thunder are one of the most scoring teams and efficient in defence, ranking 8th in the NBA this season. They are one of the top rebounding teams as well, giving them an edge over the Warriors at the boards. Its another 3 very challenging matches for them.
In their schedule, they will be playing the now in form Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies. Both teams were subjected to embarrassing defeats at the hands of the Warriors when they were struggling for form. It will be a more even match up this time. And the NBA is competitive, with likes of Portland, Miami, the reeling Hawks, Dallas, Boston capable of causing some upsets.
The toughest part of the 40 games will be a six game road trip after the All-star break, when opponents include the Hawks, Oklahoma and LA Clippers. They have a near equal balance of home and away games, and will need to make the home games count.
The ambition to go 72-10 or better, will be put to a test when the Warriors now come up against the once again, healthy NBA Giants this season.