Nine games could determine the direction of the regular season and influence the length of the postseason for the 2020-21 Warriors, and nobody on the team knows this better than Draymond Green.
And it’s likely that Green, more than anyone, will benefit from those nine games.
They’re all at home, beginning April 23, when the Warriors reopen their doors to fans at Chase Center.
“I’m very excited,” Green said Thursday. “It’s tough playing in front of an empty arena.”
Green, like teammate Stephen Curry, is among those players that get a lift from the presence of fans. On the list of things he enjoys, the supportive noise of the home crowd is nearly as gratifying as silencing a vocal road crowd. He and Curry thrive on energy in the room.
And, boy, do the Warriors need them, even restricted to 35 percent of capacity, to thrive over the final five weeks. At 24-27, the Warriors are in the 10th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
With 21 games remaining on the regular-season schedule and two struggling teams – the Washington Wizards on Friday night and the Houston Rockets on Saturday night – coming to town, this weekend is Golden State’s best opportunity to find itself.
“We have more than quarter of the season left,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re right in that zone where there’s a bunch of stuff that can happen.
“We have the ability to make a run and to make some noise and to get some momentum that has been elusive all year.”
Five of the eight games between Friday night and April 23 are on the road. Only two of those games are against teams with a winning record, the Denver Nuggets on Monday night and at the Boston Celtics on April 17.
If they can go 5-3 before returning home on the 23rd, the Warriors would take that. Nine of their last 13 games are at home, and only three of the 13 are against teams with winning records.
Best of all, the Warriors close the regular season with six consecutive home games from May 6-16
“Can’t wait,” Kerr said of having fans at Chase. “I’m thrilled. There’s an emptiness in this building this year without our fans. We desperately need the energy that they bring, the excitement. It’s just a different vibe. We’ve played in five or six arenas around the league that have brought fans back and there’s a dramatically different atmosphere in the building with fans.
“Getting our fans back could be a big part of what could be a great finish to our season.”
The Warriors built their dynastic run with massive support from crowds at Oracle Arena, posting 39-2 home records in successive seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16). Fans don’t win games, but there was a distinct homecourt advantage that even visiting players and coaches acknowledged.
Can it be duplicated at Chase? With a roster that doesn’t compare those of a few years ago? In a season where a championship is not realistic? That’s a very high hope.
But don’t be surprised if Curry and Green, in particular, find another gear and summon superlative performances over those final nine home games.