If the Warriors lose a road game and it’s not on television, did it really happen? That’s not entirely accurate, since it was only my cable that wasn’t working on Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s a problem that’s specific to my apartment, not the entire city or even my neighborhood. But I listened to last night’s game on the radio, which gave me a chance to at least follow along with the action as the Warriors came close but dropped their first game in 20 days.
The Brooklyn Nets are sort of a dysfunctional team, and they were without two of their best players in Brook Lopez (out for the year — R.I.P. my fantasy team #nct) and Deron Williams, but they smashed the Warriors in the second quarter. Throw in a seven-turnover night for Stephen Curry and 18 giveaways for the Warriors overall, along with 12 fewer free throw attempts (and makes) than the Nets, and it’s easy to see why the Warriors suffered the unfamiliar pain of defeat in the last game of their seven-game roadie.
They say the toughest games on the schedule are the first home games after road trips, but the Warriors host the Celtics on Friday, and they’ve lost their last six games and wouldn’t make the playoffs if the season ended now. That’s pretty hard to do in the Eastern Conference, so it looks like they’re finally figuring out how this “tanking” thing works in Boston.
The Warriors have played more road games than anybody — including 10 more than the Kings. They’re going to make the playoffs, since they’re five games ahead of the ninth seed (Denver, who has won three in a row but lost eight straight before that and seem to have some tension brewing in the locker room) and 5.5 games ahead of Minnesota (where Kevin Love called out teammates last night after losing to the Suns).
Golden State is currently sixth in the Western Conference, but they’re only a game behind the Clippers, percentage points behind the Rockets, and after a ridiculous start the Trail Blazers have come back to earth with four losses in their last seven games. Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook could be out until the All-Star Break, which could also make things interesting from the Warriors’ perspective.
With their home-heavy remaining schedule and the confidence they’ve built up from a crazy-long win streak, they could be poised to make a run toward one of the top four seeds. Might as well take advantage of the momentum (and popularity) that’s been building recently.
“We’re the hipster team in the NBA right now,” said Klay Thompson in response to a question about how many Warriors fans attended games throughout the road trip. That quote came during last night’s radio broadcast, so maybe missing the game on TV wasn’t so bad.
Holy third quarter
With my cable out of commission for two evenings in a row (it’s fixed now, thanks for asking), I missed the Warriors’ win against the Bucks. So my last bit of extended Warriors viewing was the game in Washington, where Golden State had the kind of third quarter you rarely see. They were cooking. Andrew Bogut’s catch and finish on Curry’s (probably accidental) lob off the backboard was the most memorable play, but David Lee scored 12 points during their 30-5 run, including a few midrange jumpers.
Not much of a surprise there, since Lee shot 68% from the field during the road trip and won Player of the Week honors the day after the Warriors routed the Wizards.
As “if healthy” has been replaced by “#FULLSQUAD,” the only thing that would seem likely to hold the Warriors back from a standings surge is the heavy minutes played by their guards. Both Thompson and Curry (who’s currently second in the All-Star voting among Western Conference guards) average 37.7 minutes per game, which ties them with Aaron Afflalo for sixth in the NBA. Lee and Andre Iguodala aren’t far behind, and Iguodala doesn’t seem like a guy who waited for his hamstring to fully heal before coming back.
The backup point guard problem, plus contest questions
The obvious reasons for the heavy minutes we’re seeing for Curry/Thompson/Lee/Iguodala:
- Mark Jackson keeps seeing leads dwindle when the reserves come in.
- Kent Bazemore and Toney Douglas have given them next to nothing offensively.
- Jackson seems to like playing Curry and Iguodala together (which means Don’t-Call-Me-Iggy can’t be the de facto backup PG).
The Warriors are reportedly interested in Andre Miller and Kirk Hinrich, two veteran point guards who don’t have much left but are making more than they’re worth ($4M in Hinrich’s case, and Miller is making $5M this season and next).
Golden State has a slew of trade exceptions, but unless I’m wrong — which could easily be the case — they can’t use those in lieu of trading salary for salary because they’re up against the luxury tax. That’s what ESPN’s Trade Machine tells me when I try to trade absolutely nothing to the Raptors for Kyle Lowry, anyway.
Bob Myers has repeatedly said that he has permission from ownership to go into the tax if that’s what the team needs to improve. However, with increasing penalties for going into the tax repeatedly, they probably wouldn’t do that unless they got a much better (and younger) player than Miller or Hinrich.
There’s no doubt that his season thus far has been poor, but I wonder if people are giving up a little too quickly on Douglas. Whether it’s the stress fracture he suffered in mid-November, shooting numbers that are down across the board or an inability to pick up the Warriors’ offense, Mark Jackson doesn’t trust him. Douglas is getting barely any minutes these days (10.1 mpg in December, 7.4 mpg so far in January), so it’s hard to determine how exactly the Warriors expect him to improve.
Before his injury, he scored 21 points in 28 minutes against San Antonio in a game where Curry was out … but he also only had one assist in that game, so maybe that’s part of the problem. 2.5 assists per 36 minutes is awful for a point guard, even one who’s known more for his defense. Then again, it’s pretty hard to rack up assists when you’re usually playing with Bazemore and Marreese Speights.
Two Questions (answer one or both): How high will the Warriors finish in the Western Conference? What should they do about their backup point guard situation?
For answering, you’ll be entered to win a 20-person Pizza + Champagne Party from Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria, who’ll cater the party at your office/workplace. Good luck!