The Warriors only loss on a wildly successful seven-game road trip last year came in Orlando.
After opening that trip with five straight wins — including a victory in Miami — Golden State was blasted 99-85. That completed a season-sweep by the Magic against the Warriors and represented their eighth win in the past nine meetings. It was also Orlando’s 16th win the past 19 home games against Golden State.
Does that provide any extra fuel for the Warriors entering tonight’s matchup?
“No,” coach Mark Jackson said. “We want to get this one because it’s on the schedule. It hasn’t nothing to do with last year.”
First a little programming note: I will not be at today’s Warriors practice in Orlando. The Dubs practice at 12:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m. Pacific) and my morning flight from Cleveland to Orlando has been cancelled. I won’t make it to Orlando until the late afternoon at the earliest. So hopefully nothing groundbreaking comes out of that central Florida work out today.
Let’s rewind to last night. That first half was ugly for the Warriors, with the notable except being the hot-shooting of Stephen Curry. He was on fire, scoring 24 of his 29 points on 8 of 11 shooting, including 5 of 5 from beyond the arc. But everything else didn’t look good.
David Lee had goose eggs (0 points, 0 rebounds in 10 minutes of foul-plagued action) and the Cavs had 64 points. As Draymond Green said, “You can’t give up 64 points to anyone … any team.”
The Warriors renew acquaintances on Sunday night with Jarrett Jack, their former backup point guard who played such a vital role during last year’s run to the Western Conference semifinals.
Their reunion with Jack comes on a night in which current backup point guard Toney Douglas will be unavailable. Douglas has food poisoning and is out for Sunday’s 3 p.m. tip against the Cleveland Cavaliers — the first game of a season-long seven-game road trip.
The Warriors may have played their most complete game of the year Friday night in squashing the Phoenix Suns 115-86. It was certainly their best from a defensive standpoint. They outrebounded the Suns 56-41. They outshot them 52.9 percent to 36 percent. They moved the ball and posted 32 assists, while Phoenix had 12. The Suns were 4 for 23 from 3-point range. Stephen Curry, by himself, had more rebounds than anybody on either team and he had more assists than the entire Phoenix team. He was one point shy from outscoring the young backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe combined.
But more than anything, the Warriors out-efforted a team that had compiled a 17-10 record largely by playing with more effort than the opposition for 48 minutes. Even the bench, led by a composed and competent Kent Bazemore, outplayed the Suns bench. It was a total pasting, and well timed as the Warriors set out on a seven-game road trip starting Sunday in Cleveland.
After a walkover win against the Faker Lakers and a nice road victory against a Denver team missing Kenneth Faried, now we finally get a game worth rewinding. The Christmas Day special against the Los Angeles Clippers lived up to the hype in every way, with the Warriors ekeing out a 105-103 victory that could go a long way toward reestablishing them as a player in the Western Conference.
It was tight, it was contentious, it was full of fabulous plays at both ends of the floor by both teams. In the end, the Warriors survived by getting Blake Griffin kicked out of the game for the final 10:41 and then playing stellar defense over the final 1:09 with a two-point lead. Chris Paul missed two layups and had another blocked from behind by Klay Thompson. Then Thompson’s outstretched hand made Jamal Crawford’s 3-point shot for the win a desperation try, and it barely hit front iron as the buzzer sounded.
The Warriors needed a win over a top team in the West after losses to Portland, Houston and San Antonio on their home court, and defeats to lesser lights like Charlotte and Phoenix on the road. So have they finally hit a groove? Probably not just yet. But three wins in a row is something Golden State hasn’t accomplished in more than a month and this win could be a launch pad to better play and firmer footing in this killer conference.
We’re going to be fine.
It’s been one of Mark Jackson’s stock lines after a series of throwaway losses this year, but he didn’t utter it after Thursday night’s mortifying 104-102 loss to a shell of the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle. Maybe even Jackson, ever the faithful optimist about his team, has some doubt creeping in about whether this bunch has the goods to right its foundering ship, or whether he has the coaching wherewithal to deliver tangible solutions to the myriad problems.
We’re virtually a third of the way through the 82-game season. The Warriors are 14-13. They have two — count ’em — wins against teams with a winning record. They stand as one of the biggest disappointments in the league to this point, even considering their tough schedule. Lose four or five win-able games and that’s the different between 18-9 and 14-13. With the Spurs’ big three — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili — all out, losing to the leftovers is humbling and perhaps telling. As Andrew Bogut said afterward, “We can’t lose this game at home .. period.” But they did.
So the Warriors are going to be fine? When? They’re 3 1/2 games out of the fifth spot in the Western Conference standings and the gap is widening. They as close to 12th in the conference standings as they are to eighth. So nobody can say with any degree of assurance right now that they are going to be fine.
The best thing you can say about Tuesday night at Oracle is that, to turn a phrase, the guys in uniform seemed to want it more than the guys in the suits and ties. The Warriors whipped op on the New Orleans Pelicans — yeesh, what a horrible nickname for a basketball team — and it was a Pelicans team missing two of its most dynamic players, Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans. You not only HAVE to win this game on your home floor, you HAVE to pretty much dominate it, and the Warriors did that, at least for three quarters.
But the real tests of the Warriors’ recovery will come Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs, albeit a Spurs team that will be missing Tony Parker (shin contusion), and then Saturday against a Lakers team that now has Kobe Bryant back. The Warriors need to win both of those games as well to show all is on the right road to a rosier future. It wouldn’t hurt to steal that game in Denver on Monday, either, to offset some of their poor road losses in Charlotte and Phoenix.