OAKLAND -- While coach Mark Jackson clings tightly to his one-game-at-a-time mantra, his players see more scope about the Warriors' killer January schedule and what it will mean to their ultimate quest.
"This month is like the Wednesday of our season," said Jarrett Jack. "It's like our hump day. A lot of things could make a turn for the good or the worse over these next few weeks."
Indeed, as much as the Warriors have shown to date in posting a 22-11 record -- including 11-7 on the road -- this almost certainly will be the month that reveals their true mettle over the long haul.
Golden State arguably has the toughest January schedule in the NBA. Nine of the next 10 games are against teams above .500, a good number of them significantly above, and the challenges are evenly divided between home and road.
After a home-and-home split with the Los Angeles Clippers to start the month that revealed the possibilities of both a "turn for the good or the worse," the Warriors plunge deeper into a January slate fraught with peril. It starts Wednesday night at Oracle Arena against a 22-10 Memphis team that has beaten Golden State seven straight times.
There is little relief from there. Portland (19-15) comes to town Friday and is riding a three-game win streak over the Warriors dating back to last year. Then it's at Denver on Sunday, where the Warriors have lost seven straight dating back to 2007.
The defending champion Miami Heat comes to Oakland next week, and you know LeBron James and Co. will be itching to avenge the Warriors' win in South Beach last month. Then it's off to San Antonio, where the Spurs' dominance of the W's is legendary -- 27 wins in a row in Texas dating back to 1997 and 15 straight anywhere dating back to Jan. 7, 2008. The Warriors almost got one in San Antonio last season, but the ghastly streak continues.
The Warriors' one "break" in the next 10 may be against struggling New Orleans, but it's also the night after the Spurs encounter and sets up as a trap game. Then comes yet another game with the Clippers at home, followed by Oklahoma City, which has five straight wins over the Warriors.
Survive all that, and the reward is a four-game Midwest road trip where at least on the first two stops, Chicago and Milwaukee, the Warriors haven't secured a victory since 2008.
Jack maintained that this stretch could ultimately prove tougher than the seven-game road trip in early December in which the Warriors went 6-1.
"With us being so young, we have a lot of guys who haven't been in situations that are right around the corner," he said. "We're not going to be sneaking up on anybody anymore. People are going to be waiting on us. These are going to be bigger, more high intensity games. I'm sure the scouting reports on us are more extensive now, too. Teams will know our tendencies, which may not have been the case a month to go."
So, how to counterpunch?
"Just focus," Jack said. "We all have to be incredibly in tune, and the habits we have created to this point have to be the things we believe we can hang our hat on."
Stephen Curry agreed on that count.
"We haven't exactly had a cakewalk schedule so far, but we know this stretch is definitely going to be a challenge protecting home court against good teams and then trying to make our game travel when we're on the road," Curry said. "Obviously, we have to win games to stay where we are and keep pushing in the right direction. We just have to do it against better teams."
Predictably, Jackson won't get too far ahead of himself and said Warriors players shouldn't, either.
"Certainly, better teams are coming up, both home and away," the coach said. "But it's important for us to realize that if we do what we're supposed to do on the defensive end, execute and take care of the basketball and also continue to rebound, we'll be just fine. Who we play is not as important as how we play."
The Warriors enter Wednesday with a 5 1/2-game cushion in the playoff standings. But that could evaporate quickly if they're not ready for this competitive uptick.
"This month's going to be a grind, but we've proven we can do it both at home and on the road, and we've already beaten a lot of the best teams in the league so far," said second-year guard Klay Thompson. "Our confidence is real high knowing we can beat anybody on any given night. We just can't let our guard down."
Memphis (22-10) at Warriors (22-11), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA
For a closer look at the Warriors' next 10 games, go to Page 4