SALT LAKE CITY -- Thirty games.
That's how many the Warriors have to live up to the hype they've created. That's how many Golden State has to secure the franchise's first postseason berth since 2007.
After the five-game losing streak heading into the All-Star break, the playoffs hardly feel like the foregone conclusion they once did. And with six of the Warriors' first eight games after the break being on the road, including Tuesday at Utah, it only makes sense for doubt to settle in, right?
"No, no, none at all," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said before Golden State's practice Monday evening in Utah. "Absolutely none. People say we've lost five in a row. That's true, but we're 30-22 in our past 52 games. That's where we are. It's exciting to have an opportunity to regroup and take care of business in the second half of the season."
The Warriors put the "P" word in the conversation, getting as high as 13 games above .500. Now they have to close the deal. The Warriors are sixth in the Western Conference standings and hold a 51/2-game lead over the ninth-place Portland Trail Blazers, who sit one spot outside the playoff qualifiers.
Golden State has a few things working in its favor, though. Chief among them is a favorable schedule down the stretch.
The Warriors play 18 of their final 30 games at home. If they split the first eight, they will have made it to the favorable part of their schedule at eight games over
Golden State gets 16 of its last 22 at home, including homestands of seven and five games.
Another bonus: The Warriors' strength of schedule takes a dive the rest of the way. Golden State had the seventh-hardest schedule before the All-Star break. Starting Tuesday, it drops to No. 15 as the Warriors have 16 games left against teams currently with losing records.
"We're confident right now," point guard Stephen Curry said. "We understand we're in good position. We feel like we have a schedule we can capitalize on with so many home games down the stretch. If we take care of business, we should be in good position for the playoffs."
Golden State's confidence is not without merit. The current holder of the No. 8 spot, Houston, has a .527 win percentage. If that holds, that means it will take about 44 wins to get into the postseason. That really shouldn't be a problem for the Warriors, who are on pace for 47 wins.
That assumes, however, they get back to playing as they were.
During the five-game losing streak, the Warriors fell apart defensively.
After beating Phoenix on Feb. 2 to cap a four-game win streak, the Warriors were a season-high 13 games over .500. They'd gotten there by holding opponents to 43.4 percent shooting (fourth in the NBA) and grabbing 51.2 percent of the rebounds (ninth). But during their current losing streak, Golden State grabbed only 48.7 percent of the rebounds (21st during that span) and allowed opponents to shoot 48.8 percent (25th).
Even if it is accepted that the Warriors weren't as good on defense as they performed, it stands to reason they aren't as bad as they were the last five games. Whether it was fatigue -- Curry is on pace for a career-high in minutes and forward David Lee is likely to top 3,000 minutes for just the second time in his career -- or bad matchups, the Warriors probably won't give up 120 per night.
What should help is the team's continued acclimation to center Andrew Bogut being in the lineup. As it turned out, his return to the lineup after missing most of two months wasn't an automatic boon. Instead, adding a proven defender and more capable offensive center to the lineup has required an adjustment.
The expectation is for Bogut to play increasingly more in the second half, including back-to-back sets. That figures to help integrate him into the Warriors' noted chemistry.
"People are going to say what they say," Bogut said, "and people are going to look at me coming back and say, 'Hey, look we started losing.' That's everybody's assumptions. I mean, I can only do what I can do out there: rebound, set screens, if guys are open get them the ball, be a team guy."
Warriors (30-22) at Utah (30-24), 6 p.m. CSNBA