When it comes to assessing the Warriors chances for successin 2012-13, you get an array of opinions from their fans.Some believe this Warriors roster is as complete as anysince the 2007-08 season, when they went 48-34. Those fans are thinkingplayoffs, not surprisingly.The more pessimistic fans are skeptical that the team canremain healthy for an entire season, and that even if they do its going to betough to make the playoffs.But the one thing everyone can likely agree on is that therecipe for Warriors success seems clear: Theyve got to hang in early and thenmake a surge late.In other words, dont look for the Warriors to start quicklyand be firmly embedded in the playoff mix from the get-go and then try tohold off the competition.The 2012-13 Warriors schedule lends itself to the teamwinning more games late in the season than early. In short, their schedule isvery unfriendly early, then gets more kind late.NEWS: Warriors open season in Phoenix on HalloweenThe Warriors open with 15 of their first 24 games on theroad. Of the nine home games they play during that stretch, six will comeagainst playoff teams from a year ago.The Warriors complete that early stretch with a seven-gameroad trip to Detroit, Brooklyn, Washington, Charlotte, Miami, Orlando andAtlanta. Yes, there a few winnable games on that trip, but keep in mind theWarriors were just 11-22 on the road a season ago. Their record away fromOracle Arena the past four seasons is 37-119 (.237).The Warriors, who went 23-43 last season, expect to be abetter team overall in 2012-13, and certainly a better road team. But thereality is that the core of the team will be playing together for the firsttime come the start of the season, and that doesnt lend itself to a quickstart when the majority of games are away from Oracle.The good news comes in March and April, when the Warriorswill have an opportunity to do some major damage. Sixteen of the teams final22 are at home, including two separate homestands of seven and five games,respectively.The seven-gamer in March is littered with winnable games Toronto, Sacramento, Houston, Milwaukee, New York, Detroit and Chicago andthe five-gamer isnt exactly a bear, either: Washington, L.A. Lakers,Sacramento, Portland and New Orleans.The Warriors schedule sets the team up for plenty of winslate in the season. But for those wins to matter, the Warriors are going tohave stay afloat early.
After conquering the third-place Rockets in Part I of the toughest two-night stint this season, the Warriors on Wednesday night will take aim on Part II of the challenge.
Which likely will be even more difficult, as the first-place Warriors are going into the historically imposing AT&T Center in San Antonio to face the Spurs, who reside in second place in the Western Conference.
A win by the Warriors (60-14) would reduce to five the magic number for clinching the No. 1 overall seed for the playoffs. A victory by the Spurs (57-16) would pull them within 1.5 games of the top-seeded Warriors.
The Warriors, buoyed by the best defense in the NBA this month, have won eight consecutive games. The win streak began immediately after their last trip to San Antonio, on March 11, when coach Steve Kerr rested Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson.
The Spurs have won five in a row and will be trying to complete a three-game season sweep of the Warriors, who have not been swept by any team since Kerr was hired in 2014.
Spurs by 4.5
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Klay Thompson & Co. vs. Kawhi Leonard: Arguably the league’s best two-way player, Leonard has intruded on what was a two-man MVP race. He has emerged as a team leader and the man who must be neutralized to beat Spurs. Thompson will among several Warriors -- Matt Barnes and Green also will get opportunities -- trying to keep Leonard in check.
Warriors: F/C James Michael McAdoo (L eyebrow laceration) is listed as probable. F Kevin Durant (L knee sprain, bone bruise) is listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.
Spurs: G Dejounte Murray (L groin strain) is listed as out.
Warriors: 8-2. Spurs: 7-3.
The Spurs won both games earlier this season, one in Oakland and one in San Antonio. The Warriors won three of four last season but have lost nine of the last 13 meetings overall. They have lost 34 of the last 35 games in San Antonio.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
THE CHESS GAME: Though neither coach has announced intentions to rest anyone, both realize they could meet again in the postseason. Therefore, neither is likely to tip his full hand in terms of schemes and tactics. Yet it could be said the Warriors, without Durant, have an ace in the hole.
THE FOURS: San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and the Warriors’ Green have been battling for several years. Despite height and physique that pale in comparison to Aldridge, Green’s aggressive nature and knowledge of angles and tendencies have allowed him to contain the bigger man. On the other end, Green hopes his tender ankle won’t prevent him from outrunning the bigger power forward.
THE BENCHES: San Antonio’s bench is deep and frisky; its 10.2 net rating is tops in the NBA. The Warriors, however, have gotten strong play from their reserves and now own the No. 2 net rating (7.4). Both teams have impact players here. Patty Mills is as much of a factor for the Spurs as Iguodala is for the Warriors.
Though Kevin Durant will miss at least five more games, there remains a possibility he could return to the Warriors lineup before the end of the regular season, according to an update provided by the team on Wednesday.
The team’s leading scorer, Durant has missed the last 15 games after sustaining a sprained medial collateral ligament and bone bruise to his left knee on Feb. 28 at Washington. After several days with the knee immobilized, he has spent the past two weeks participating in individual workouts.
“Kevin has made very good progress since suffering the injury four weeks ago in Washington,” began a statement issued by the team. “He has not experienced any setbacks to date and has progressed as well as could be expected. At this point, he is being incorporated into non-contact basketball drills – shooting, running and jumping – and the plan is to intensify his level of movement over the next several days, which will include more explosive cutting and lateral maneuvers.”
Durant has been engaging in shooting and dribbling drills, full-sprint activity and is dunking with ease. The 6-foot-9 forward traveled with the Warriors last week to Oklahoma City and Dallas and is with the team on its current trip to Houston and San Antonio.
“His eventual return to contact drills and practice will be predicated upon his progress to the increased intensity of his workouts, and a return to game action prior to the end of the regular season remains a possibility,” according to the statement. “He will be re-evaluated again in the next 7-10 days.”
The Warriors have eight games remaining on their regular-season schedule, with the last three at home, beginning with the New Orleans Pelicans on April 8.
The playoffs begin on April 15.