The Golden State Warriors tipped off 2013 with an impressive 115-94 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 2. At the time, the win moved the Warriors to 22-10 on the season with their sights set on joining the the Clippers, Oklahoma City and San Antonio among the elite teams in the Western Conference.
Since then, however, 2013 has been a bad year for the Warriors. With an opportunity to assert themselves as legitimate contenders in the West, the Warriors have lost five of their last six games while dealing with an injury to starting point guard Stephen Curry, as well as a challenging schedule.
The latest lethal stretch of games left the Dubs with losses to the Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. No shame in any one loss to those playoff contenders but stringing them together has certainly dampened the rising expectations for Golden State while also pushing them down the standings in the West.
The Warriors are currently in fifth place, a full eight games behind Oklahoma City in the top spot. After beating the Clippers to start the year, the Warriors were looking dead ahead, but they now find themselves checking the rearview mirror with Denver one game behind and Utah, Portland and Houston all within 3.5 games.
Slipping behind Houston would knock Golden State all of the way out of playoff position, which still seems highly unlikely. The Warriors aren't done weathering their challenging schedule though and need Curry to return from an ankle injury that has forced him to miss the last two games against Miami and San Antonio.
Curry will try to give it a go when the Warriors visit the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night. After playing in New Orleans, Golden State faces the Clippers for the third time this month, followed by Oklahoma City and Chicago. The game against the Bulls starts a road trip against Eastern Conference teams that has the Warriors playing four games in five days.
Curry leads the Warriors with over 20 points and seven assists per game while shooting 46% from behind the arc. Forward David Lee has been a consistent force through most of the season for the Warriors, averaging 20 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game.
The Warriors are still looking to Klay Thompson to give their two stars a consistent boost on the offensive end. Thompson can carry the Dubs to wins on some nights while failing to impact the game on others. Look no further than the past two losses in which Thompson scored just two points against Miami and then scored 21 points against San Antonio. Thompson needed 20 shots to score his points against San Antonio though which isn't the most efficient way for a sidekick to kick in to a winning effort.
Assuming Curry returns soon and remains healthy, the Warriors remain in position to finish the season in a favorable playoff position. But the Warriors could use a win or two next week against those strong teams to keep them looking forward and not behind in the standings.