Sorry for the delay in getting these posted. Back-to-backs are tough, and not just on players. Flights that leave six hours after you file your game story — especially when you are then heading to New Orleans — can make it tough some times.
So let’s recap the last two nights. Friday, well, what could you do to slow down Kevin Durant? Probably nothing. He’s a future Hall of Famer, he’s at minimum the second-best player in the world, and he had a career night. The final box score showed a 6-point loss, but that game was never really in question. Durant had OKC in control all night. If he needed to score 70 to win, he probably would have.
The defensive effort in that game, combined with the defense against Denver and then the first half against New Orleans last night, was reason to be concerned. Defense isn’t supposed to slump. It’s why Mark Jackson always says the Warriors act “travels.” But the defense was slumping a little bit.
You can understand that to a degree on a back-to-back, because so much about defense is giving that extra effort and hustle. But playing a team without three starters, there are no excuses. Jackson said a loss last night would’ve been a terrible loss and he’s right. But the Warriors got through it, stepped up the defense in the second half and got the win.
It officially kicked off the second half of the season (in terms of games played) on the right note. The Warriors hit the halfway mark after the OKC game at 25-16, so exactly on a 50-win pace. By some measures, the schedule lightens up with nine of the next 11 games at home after the Warriors played an NBA-high 25 road games in their first 42.
But all that home-road talk means nothing if they don’t win those home games. I mean, that seven-game road trip where they beat up on the weak Eastern Conference proves that it’s not always tougher on the road than at home. But, Golden State is 12-5 at home compared to just 14-11 on the road. The biggest thing is them getting into more of a routine and being able to rest a little more by not immediately boarding a plane after a game.
It’s a big stretch right now. After briefly grabbing the Pacific Division lead, the Warriors are two games back of the Chris Paul-less Clippers. And LA is set to go on its own seven-game East Coast road trip. Can they beat up on those teams like the Dubs did? You’d like to think this stretch without Paul is the time for the Warriors to try to build a division lead. With home games on the horizen and the Clips on the road, the time is now.
That’ll do it for today. New Warriors beat writer Diamond Leung joins the fold on Monday. Carl Steward and I will be easing him in over the next week and you’ll have me for one more road game at Utah on Jan. 31. Until then, give Diamond a warm welcome when he joins us.