As the Golden State Warriors pass the midway point of a six-game road trip, many storylines have begun to build over the lapse of this past week, now right at the 25-game mark with a sample size big enough to see what’s next.
Here are five takeaways following Monday’s night matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans:
1. Stephen Curry’s injury: This can perhaps be the single most important and to some extent devastating piece of news from this road trip.
Curry suffered a nasty roll of his surgically-repaired right ankle and it came with 57 seconds left in the game. The former MVP limped out of the court and was later seen in a boot, using crutches — scheduled to have an MRI this morning to fully understand the extent of his injury.
The Warriors will be utmost careful when it comes to any of their players, but Curry has gone from being a fortuitous $44 million gamble to a $201 million franchise treasure as a supermax player.
This franchise won’t take any chances when it comes to his health and has already taken enough by playing him through a hand contusion, which can get worse by landing on it or being hit through contact.
Curry had maintained a relatively clean bill of health through the past few years, playing in 78 or more regular season games the past five seasons, but this Warriors ownership and front office are playing the long game, and would rather depend on a two-man tandem of Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant than risk their floor general’s availability come playoff time.
2. Welcome to Ejectionland: The Warriors have now faced ejections three nights in a row, with Durant being tossed while up 23 on the Orlando Magic on Friday, Shaun Livingston’s rare flare-up with Courtney Kirkland in Sunday’s game against the Miami Heat, and Durant again last night in the last few seconds, responding to DeMarcus Cousins’ usual mopey jabber at the end of a loss.
This trend is nothing to scoff at, as the Warriors have been affected as a team by focusing on the calls and non-calls from the officials this season, resulting in lapses of concentration and utter frustration pulling them away from the task at hand.
Durant now leads the league in ejections and it isn’t even a matter of casualty — if the eye test claims there’s a spike on one-technical ejections across the league is because there is. Officials have not been fond of jabbering with players or coaches and are quicker to pull the trigger on a tech than ever before.
3. Overcoming deficits: Monday night’s game was a testament to the sheer firepower this team has and its ability to go on runs and sustain them when they want to do so. The Warriors shut down the Pelicans’ offensive barrage for the first four minutes of the third quarter, going on a 15-0 run to start the period with a renewed focus. Golden State was ultimately able to break through and close out the game to make it four straight wins in this road trip.
The Warriors have had lapses of focus throughout the season and Monday was no exception, as they couldn’t help themselves from making infantile mistakes through the course of the first half and playing with less-than-desirable intensity, falling behind by 20 points at the half.
This team will need to find its focus as the season progresses and cut down on the mental mistakes and poor use of fundamental basketball, cut down on isolation plays and hitting home runs on the road.
To take a page from another contender — Brad Stevens, head coach of the Boston Celtics once warned that his team’s fourth quarter heroics only meant that his players were letting other teams play with them instead of putting them away for good.
This Warriors team is very much of the same degree, as they know just how good they are and the strength of quick blows they can deliver at a moment’s notice— but fall in a hole too deep, and this team might find itself unable to find the switch.
4. Turnovers of the not-so-sweet kind: Golden State has averaged 16.1 turnovers per game in this road trip, an average aided by the nine committed against the Miami Heat, who play at a slower pace. The Warriors are ranked third-worst in the league in turnovers with 16.5 per game, but lead the league by far in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.93.
Analysis:The Warriors do lead the league in assists per game at 31.1, nearly five more than the next-best team and post a plus-1.3 turnover differential, which is encouraging, but not thrilling.
Kerr’s exasperation comes from the lazy passes to the post, the Brett Favre-esque touchdown pass to someone running a contested stride to the rim, and ultimately Curry’s propensity to dribble himself into corners and play to the only strength an opposing defense could have to stop him.
As the season progresses, they’ll have to clean up a lot of these mishaps, as possessions are much harder to come by in the postseason, and what is done with them is what will determine the outcome of a game.
The Warriors had better get their fix of making mistakes during the regular season, or it can spell trouble for them if it isn’t cleaned up by playoff time.
5. What’s next?: The Warriors will once again try to shoot for the perfect six-game road trip for the fourth straight season, having fallen a win short in each the past three years.
They’ll face the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday and the Detroit Pistons on Friday — the latter have made a perplexing change from last season with the help of a more effective Andre Drummond, a more assertive Tobias Harris, and the addition of a perimeter hawk at both ends in Avery Bradley.
The Pistons forced the Warriors into a season-high 26 turnovers on Oct. 29, beating them 115-107, despite the Warriors shooting a blistering 57 percent from the floor.
Jordan Bell will get minutes in the next few games, but as usual, Kerr will try to keep everyone happy by rotating big men around every game. Zaza Pachulia’s absence; if continued, should spell some extra minutes at center for the young Oregon product.