The Warriors entered the 2016/17 season as significant favorites to come out of the Western Conference and win the NBA Finals, and little has changed during the first couple months of the season. Golden State isn’t quite on a 73-win pace again this season, but the team is 23-4 and its offense is producing at a historic pace.
Although the Warriors haven’t looked invincible, they also haven’t had to endure many growing pains as they’ve incorporated prized offseason signee Kevin Durant into their rotation. It will be an extremely tall order for any Western Conference team to beat Golden State four times in a seven-game playoff series, but a handful of teams in the conference have looked good so far.
The Spurs have the West’s second-best record, at 21-5, though advanced statistics suggest that pace is probably unsustainable, as Mika Honkasalo of HoopsHype writes. The Clippers got off to a hot start and briefly looked like they belonged in the discussion with the Warriors, but a cool stretch starting in late November brought them back down to earth, and they’ve struggled against Golden State in recent years. L.A. has lost its last seven games to the Warriors, and was blown out in the only meeting between the two teams so far this season.
While San Antonio and Los Angeles were expected to be the Warriors’ top challengers coming into the season, another trio of teams has helped form a strong second tier in the conference. The Rockets, led by MVP candidates James Harden and a record-setting barrage of three-pointers, have won nine games in a row and are tied with the Clips at 20-7. The Grizzlies, who surged without their top player (Mike Conley), are right behind them, and the Jazz, who have battled injuries all year, look like they could be a dangerous club if and when they finally get healthy.
What do you think? Which of these teams should the Warriors be most worried about facing in the Western Conference portion of the postseason? Is there another team in the conference that could create problems for Golden State? Weigh in below with your vote!
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