The road to the playoffs in the NBA is pretty simple. Your schedule is made up of games you are supposed to win, and games you aren’t supposed to win. The key is taking care of business in as many of the former as possible while stealing as many of the latter as you can.
So far the Warriors have done well in both categories. They had letdowns November 5th in Sacramento and on December 3rd at home against the Magic, but ground out wins against Phoenix, Cleveland, Minnesota, Detroit, Washington, and Charlotte.
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On the other side of the coin, the Warriors are making a brand out of winning games they probably shouldn’t. They beat the Clippers and Mavericks on the second game of back-to-backs on the road. They swept the season series against a strong Brooklyn team.
Beating Miami in Miami in the midst of a 5 game road win streak? That is a different kind of win. Now there is not a game on the schedule that feels unwinnable. Miami played well, but the Warriors played better.
Up to this point the schedule has been kind to the Warriors. In Golden State’s first 22 games, their combined opponent win% is 48.0. In their next 5 games, the Blue & Gold have a great opportunity to pad their win total against a combined 38.8 win% (including 4 of the worst 9 teams in the NBA).
[REWIND: Instant replay -- Warriors 97, Miami 95]
After the next 5, the Warriors enter the toughest stretch of their schedule. 11 of their next 15 games are against teams above .500. The combined win % of those opponents is 58.2.
Before beating Miami, that stretch seemed a likely place for the Warriors to come back to earth after their scorching start. Now? Well, nine of those games are at home, five are against teams they have already beat, the Lakers are struggling, the Celtics aren’t what they once were, etc.
Since the Warriors missed the playoffs with 48 wins in 07-08, the average win % of the 6-8 seeds has been 59.5. That percentage translates to around 49 wins. To reach that total, the Warriors need to win 34 of their final 60 games.
Two days ago, the next 20 games looked like a make-or-break stretch for the Warriors. Now it looks like an opportunity to not only solidify their spot in the playoff race, but presents a chance to challenge the top quarter of the league.
Mike Kreuser is a production assistant at Comcast SportsNet. You can follow him on twitter: @MikeKreuser