Coming into this road trip, most would’ve said a 4-3 trip was a success. A 3-4 road trip would have been understandable.
After the Warriors’ 101-97 win at Washington on Saturday, they reached understandable. Now they go into Monday’s game at Charlotte (7-12) looking to make this trip a success.
It was an ugly game. Both team traveled into Washington after Friday night games, and the play looked like it.
Still, Golden State escaped unscathed. They won a game they should have, preserving the value of Friday’s upset at Brooklyn.
Golden State is 13-7, their best start since the 1991-92 season. The Warriors haven’t won the first three games of abroad trip since 1993.
STEPHEN CURRY: “We’ve got good momentum now. The team’s playing well. We’re finding all sorts of different ways to win.”
More on Saturday’s win …
WRITERS RANT: Don’t get ahead of yourselves. I know dealing with success is new for the Warriors and their fans. The biggest mistake would be to act as if they have arrived.
Are the playing well? Absolutely.Is something brewing here? No doubt.
But stop the talk about playoff seeding. Stop putting Warriors into All-Star games.
As Jarrett Jack says with regularity , the Warriors “ain’t done nothing yet.”
This 20-game start to the Warrior season is a positive. But not because it puts them in the ranks of contenders. It’s positive because they are doing what they needed to do – accumulate every win they can muster. The reason that’s important is because the schedule gets brutal and January and February, so the Warriors need some cushion so they can still be in the hunt towards the end, when they have 16 of the last 22 games at home.
Now if they they’re knocking off teams in January, then you can start getting excited. But right now, Golden State is merely developing (and taking advantage of some good fortune in the scheduling).
That’s not to discredit what they’re doing. 3-0 to start the road trip is great. But 2-1 was expected and 1-2 would’ve been disappointing.
They still have a few duds to remind you they are still a team fighting TO BECOME a playoff team. But it’s still too early, and they haven’t done enough, to conclude they’ve become that.
Nobody expected them to be 13-7 even if Andrew Bogut were healthy and Brandon Rush didn’t go down with a season-ending knee injury. So the fact that they’re off to their best start in 11 years is impressive. But it’s because they are improving, not because they’ve arrived.
MVP: David Lee
For the second consecutive game on this trip, he made winning plays.
He scored two clutch baskets after the Wizards had tied the game with 4 minutes left, including a 17-footer with 1:05 left that put Golden State ahead 95-89. He also played good defense on a Nene post move during a critical late possession and tracked down a couple must-have defensive rebounds.
He finished with a game-high 24 points and 17 rebounds.
MDP: Harrison Barnes
It feels like he is being picked on. But if he played 24 minutes and you barely remember him out there, that’s disappointing. He had 3 points on 1 of 7 shooting. He did grab 6 rebounds and dished 4 assists, so it wasn’t all bad. But that was a game he should dominate. No one else was really rolling. It was a great opportunity for him to say “I got this one fellas.”
Some of it is on the coaching staff, to be sure. I’ve been saying they need to get him involved. But if they don’t, it’s not OK for him to settle. Not with his talent.
KEY MOMENT I: The Warriors led by 7 after one quarter and got up as large as 12 early in the second quarter. They were a few baskets from turning the entire tenor of the game into a brewing rout . But the Warriors managed just 2 points with 3 turnovers during a four-minute stretch in the middle of the second, allowing the Wizards to get within four.
The Warriors pushed it back up to nine, 50-41 after a Thompson. 3-pointer 46.8 seconds left. But back-to-back 3-pointers by Cartier Martin arrested the momentum from the Warriors and gave Washington much hope heading into the locker room.
TELLING STAT: The Warriors took 81 shots on Saturday. Only 27 of them were in the paint. Their 22 point in the paint – yes they were 11 of 27 (40.7 percent) – was a season-low. They relied so heavily on jumpers, perhaps a sign of fatigue.
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “We are built on the defensive side and we will put together a string of defensive stops. I’m not worried about our offense. I’ve never been worried about our offense. Defensively, we are good enough where we know when it’s time to put some stops together. We did it. We rebounded and dominated the boards and got our offense going. But our defense is what carried us.” – Mark Jackson
KEY MOMENT II: The game was tied at 84 with 4:14 left. That seemed to be the point the Warriors decided it was time to win.
Thompson went straight to the hole, drawing a foul and converting two free throws. After a stop, guard Jarrett Jack forced his way inside and dropped in a runner with 3:32 left, putting the Warriors up 88-84. The Wizards split a pair of free throws. Then, Draymond Green rebounded his own miss and found Thompson wide open for a 3-pointer. One more stop led to a Lee runner off a pick-and-roll with Curry.
Just like that, in a span of 1:55, the Warriors ran off a 9-1 run to push their advantage to 93-85.
COACHES CORNER: I was talking to Warriors officials before the game, telling them Golden State would lose. I gave my explanation about it being a trap game and all. One of them responded by saying Mark Jackson won’t let that happen. It’s his specialty.
I thought, “you know, good point.” After all, Jackson had that JV squad from last season playing hard, full of energy and passion, competing. Certainly, he could drum up the motivation to get the Warriors to beat the lowly, lowly Wizards. Certainly, the Warriors needed a rout. Rest would’ve been good.
Still, the Warriors came out as listless as I predicted. They messed around and let the Wizards hang close. Certainly, games like these happen. But the Warriors make a habit out of slow starts, whether to the game or the second half. Mark Jackson says a lot how much he trusts these guys. He rarely calls timeouts and barely blinks when they get jumper happy.
I think he needs to micromanage a little more. His strength is getting the most out of guys, but I’m not sure he feels like he has to this year. Many of these guys are inexperienced. Sometimes I thinks he leaves them to their own devices too much, like they’re some veteran team. Sometimes, he needs to make things happen from the bench, like starting Draymond in the second half against Brooklyn, or when he occasionally moves Klay to the point. He can do more of that. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Bazemore get in there and just harass full court for a minute or two, change the tone of the game. Or playing Landry and Lee with a center to force opponents to match-up to him. Or call a timeout out when the run is 6-0 and make it clear a steady diet of jumpers is not the business.
One thing Jackson did that I thought was smart was running Charles Jenkins out there more. One of his strengths when he was drafted was his ability to play two positions. He’s got a killer midrange jumper and is adept at getting inside, using his strength to finish. Klay doesn’t HAVE to play 40 minutes.
SERIOUSLY?!: I like what Draymond Green brings to the team as much as anyone. But 10 shots? Most of them were jumpers, which explains why he missed 7. I know he was open, but your offense has a problem when he takes 10 shots and Barnes gets 7, and Landry gets 9 (5 attempts, 4 trips to the line)
KEY MOMENT III: The Wizards turned it into a nail-biter thanks largely to guard Jordan Crawford. He nailed two 3-pointers in 34.2 seconds, the larger cutting the Warriors lead to 3. The Warriors did what they wee supposed to do, make their free throws. Still, they nearly found themselves in overtime.
With 15.2 seconds left, Neal nailed a 3-pointed to cut the Warriors lead to 97-96. Curry made two more free throws, then the Warriors fouled intentionally to prevent the game-tying 3-pointer. Beal made the first and missed the second on purpose. He left the lime before the ball touched the rim, which was supposed to be a lane violation, and the rebound bounced right to him. Jackson said Lee forgot to block out the shooter. Lee suggested he couldn’t because Beal left early.
Either way, his layup attempts was blocked by Ezeli, avoiding a demoralizing end for the Warriors.
LEE: “Every game is different. Our team is going into these games and believing we’re going to win. We just have to see how each game shakes out and different guys are stepping up every single night.”
BEFORE YOU GO: Check out Klay Thompson’s line: 23 points, 8 of 14 shooting (5 of 9 from 3), 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 blocks, 39 minutes. You can stomach. A pretty all-around game by him. He was’t great defensively, but some of the baskets he allowed he couldn’t do anything about, just tough shots. Can he impact the game this way consistently? Or only when his shot is falling