GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS AT NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Thursday, Jan. 6 (7 p.m.)
Why it’s on the list
Based on recent reports, this early-January Western Conference battle could occur right around the time Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson makes his long-awaited return to action. After helping to lead the Warriors to NBA championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018, Steph Curry’s starting backcourt partner has missed each of the past two seasons due to injury, but the elite perimeter marksman is expected to be back on the floor perhaps by Christmas. With Thompson back in uniform, Golden State could return to the elite of the NBA – while intact, the club’s trio of Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green has at least reached the Finals every season since 2014-15.
Golden State has been one of the NBA’s biggest road draws with Curry in a starring role. During the most recent season in which arenas allowed full capacity for the entire campaign (2018-19), the Warriors achieved 100 percent attendance at their 41 away games, per ESPN.com.
Where it falls on the New Orleans schedule
It’s part of an extremely challenging week for the Pelicans, who host Utah, Phoenix and Golden State over a four-night span, starting with a back-to-back against the Jazz and Suns. One positive aspect of the first half of January is it includes minimal travel for New Orleans, with one-game trips to Milwaukee (Jan. 1) and Toronto (Jan. 9) being the month’s only excursions prior to a Jan. 15-20 trek to the Northeast.
What’s new in Golden State
Thompson isn’t the only old face back in the Warriors’ rotation this season. Golden State dipped into its recent past by signing free agent Andre Iguodala, part of a reconfigured bench unit that brought in additional shooting this summer. Veteran forwards Otto Porter and Nemanja Bjelica should help spread the floor for the Warriors, while lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody will have to fight harder to earn minutes than most NBA first-rounders in Year 1.
In a matchup of teams headlined by recent league MVPs, Golden State throttled Denver in the opening round by a 65 percent-35 percent margin, but the Warriors were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Memphis (the Grizzlies also ended GSW’s 2021 postseason run during the West play-in round, in a dramatic overtime game).
Other 2021-22 games between these teams
Friday, Nov. 5, New Orleans at Golden State (ESPN)
Sunday, April 10, Golden State at New Orleans