Eighteen games left in the Warriors' regular-season, and I think they realistically need to win nine or 10 of them to ensure a playoff spot -- with tonight's game against the Knicks at Oracle in the high-profile toss-up category.
This is probably not a mandatory GSW victory in pure mathematical terms (they have plenty of easier games left on the schedule), and I'm not sure about Carmelo Anthony's health status (NY writers report he's probable for tonight, which obviously changes the equation -- one quick question: What Warriors player defends him? David Lee is the position match-up at PF, but come on)...
But given the Warriors' recent swoon and some tougher games up ahead (not including Detroit on Wednesday), this could be an emotional lode star for your Fightin' Short-Sleevers.
By that, I mean: If the Warriors play well and win, they're going to feel like they're back on track and probably should finish comfortably ahead of stumbling Utah in the developing and not quite inspiring two-team race for the 8th seed in the West.
They really should, by the way. Utah isn't very good and is showing it.
But if the Warriors fall apart defensively and offensively again tonight, as they did against Milwaukee on Saturday, there will be emergency lights flashing everywhere within a 5-mile radius of Warriors HQ -- and there probably should be.
They can lose tonight and still make the playoffs, that is unquestionable. Again: Have you see Utah play lately?
But if the GSWs lose tonight can they still keep it together mentally, while they see things falling apart?
I don't think Mark Jackson's necessarily in trouble -- he has done a strong coaching job this season strategically and emotionally, the locker room loves him, things are organized and cohesive, and Joe Lacob and Bob Myers have uttered nothing but support for Jackson all season.
I'm not sure the Warriors can do better than Jackson, and I'm not sure they're at all curious about finding out, even if things keep slipping all the way until the end of the season.
Remember, the GSWs are still 35-29, still out-performing what most thought this roster could achieve without getting much from Andrew Bogut so far, and just like last season, Jackson and his staff have had to adjust on the fly to new conditions -- last season it was the Monta Ellis-Bogut deal, this season it's figuring out how to work Bogut in and out of the lineup as his injuries and play dictate.
However, any coach not named Gregg Popovich or Doc Rivers can be derailed by a rough stretch at any point, and that means it would behoove Jackson to get this turned around fairly soon.
I think it'll be determined by the way the Warriors play in these final 18 games, not necessarily whether or not they make the playoffs. If they regroup, make a solid run and still fall short -- say, if Utah takes off -- I'm pretty sure Jackson is safe.
In general, I think it's very likely that Jackson is the Warriors coach next season.
What could affect him negatively this year is if the Warriors show no signs of turning this around, lose games they should win in the final weeks, and just look discombobulated all the way -- as discombobulated as they did vs. Houston and Milwaukee, for instance.
I don't expect that to happen. I'm just saying in the NBA, especially with a coach in his second season (of a three-year deal with the third year probably not guaranteed) it's always a possibility.
Most importantly, the Warriors are two games up in the loss column on the Jazz and have 2 fewer road games left than the Jazz do.
They built their excellent 30-17 start largely by playing semi-zone D vs. terrible-shooting teams, who, not surprisingly, couldn't take advantage of the Warriors' pack-it-in mentality.
But now they're facing lots of good shooters, which stretches their defense, and that in turn opens up their perimeter players to dribble-penetration -- and the Warriors went to the pack-it-in defense strictly to protect against their tendency to give up easy dribble-penetration.
It was smart for the Warriors to go to the semi-zone D and it worked for a long time. It just wasn't going to work against everybody forever, and now we're seeing why.
The result: The Warriors have gone 5-12 since early-February.
This doesn't mean it was all a mirage. It just means the Warriors had a style that worked to cover their limitations -- can anybody stay in front of an opponent driver? -- and now it's not covering them.
The Warriors with this line-up (with or without Bogut) will always have trouble keeping guards from blowing past Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and that's also because their big men (Lee, Bogut and Carl Landry) aren't very good at extending the defense to bust up the pick-and-roll.
It's a problem. It was covered up for a while by just letting teams clank from outside. Now teams aren't clanking so much.
But the math said things would turn vs. the East, just had to. And since the 15-5 start, the Warriors have gone: 1-5 vs. East.
Plus, since the early run the Warriors are getting a much larger diet of West teams and the Warriors are faltering—their record vs. the West is 19-19.
They were holding opponents to 42.9% FG shooting in early-January, and were 4th-best in the league.
They were at +4.2 back in early-January.