The Santa Cruz Warriors are riding a six game winning streak after taking care of business in the State of Texas against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Texas Legends.
With nine games to go they trail the Bakersfield Jam for first place in the West Division of the D-League by just one and a half games, so let's take a look at the Warriors final stretch.
Idaho Stampede, Mar. 22, 25 & 27:
Although the Stampede record is below .500, at 13-28, they have played the Warriors tough all season long. The season series stands at 3-2 in favor of the Stampede, and they swept the Warriors in Idaho when they last met.
Thankfully for the Warriors all three games are in Kaiser Permanete Arena where they are 16-2.
Don't be fooled though, Idaho is struggling. In fact that might be an understatement. They've lost their last four games, three of them at home. They're defense has been non-existent during this four game slump, giving up over 100 points in all four games.
So what can the Warriors expect? Simply said, revenge from Carlon Brown. After being traded to the Stampede earlier this season he has been brilliant on offense. The last time the Ws faced their former teammate he lit them up for 26 points the first night and 18 points the following.
He's coming off an injury that sidelined him for most of Feb. and the early part of Mar., but in their two game series against the Tulsa 66ers he averaged 20 points.
The Warriors are the better team on paper and the roaring Santa Cruz crowd will help them. They could easily take all three games.
Texas Legends, Mar. 23:
The Legends have been anything but legendary this season. Their record is 18-25 and the Warriors have won both games against them this season.
They played arguably their best game of the season the last time they met the Legends. They held them to 33% shooting and a measly 85 points even with Delonte West in the starting line-up.
Offensively the Warriors were as solid as ever. Six players scored in double-figures, their passes were crisp and the offensive ran smoothly. Their big-men had a field day as both Hilton Armstrong and Lance Goulbourne had double-doubles.
Make no mistake, this will be a major upset if the Warriors drop this game at home.
Los Angeles D-Fenders, Mar. 29 & 30:
The Warriors and D-Fenders will play one game in Santa Cruz on the 29, and then they'll make the journey overnight to Los Angeles to finish the two game series.
The W's have dominated the Lakers Affiliate taking all four games in the series, but the wins haven't come easily. They have won by an average of five points in those four games.
The main aspect of this series will be that the Warriors will have played a total of six games in nine days when they make the overnight trip to Los Angeles. Fatigue could be a factor, and the D-fenders will have a five day rest before they make the trip to Santa Cruz.
Reno Bighorns, April 2:
Remember I said the Stampede are struggling? Well, the vultures are circling the Bighorn carcases'.
Not only are they the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention, but they're on a 10-game losing streak. Ouch.
The Warriors are 6-1 this season against the lowly Bighorns, but their one loss came in Reno. Again, fatigue could be a factor in this game seeing as they will have only two days to recover from their game with the D-Fenders before they play in Reno.
Bighorns center Samardo Samuels has dominated every match-up against the Warriors this season. He has averaged 22.4 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. He has been one of the only good things that has happened for the Horns this season.
Samuels can make a difference, but one man cannot beat a complete team like the Warriors. They should easily take this game.
Bakersfield Jam, April 5 & 6:
The Jam are also heating up in the final stretch of the season and are on a five game winning streak. If both teams win out, and both are more than capable of doing so, this series will decide who will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Jam have beaten the Warriors twice, and they handed them their first loss in Kaiser earlier this year. Both teams are very similar. They play defense and they share the basketball. Neither the Warriors nor the Jam have a player that averages more than 20 points per game.
The Warriors are fully loaded for the final run, and by the time these two teams meet the new acquisitions will have hopefully meshed nicely.
The additions Scott Machado and Jeremy Tyler give Warriors head coach Nate Bjorkgren more tools to use and mold his team. Also, Travis Leslie has made his return to the Warriors after his 10-day contract with the Utah Jazz expired.
The Warriors will be at full power when they meet the Jam, and they will need every last bit of it to finish the season strongly and steal away the West.
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