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The Road Warriors: Reviewing Golden State’s extended road trip

An exhausted Warriors team returned home last night to beat the Knicks after a difficult road trip, which featured five games in seven nights. Before moving on, we look back on the ups and downs of that difficult trip.

NBA: New York Knicks at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Given the excellent post game coverage already provided by Sami, and Apricot, and Andrew, I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back across the Warriors longest road trip of the season.

Game 1 – Warriors defeat Clippers (115-98)

Ah yes, the L.A. Clippers, the most punchable roster in the NBA. This was a great game for all of us Golden State Warriors fans who dislike the stars on the Clippers because Chris Paul came out of the gate playing poorly and whining about everything, Blake Griffin went 5-for-20 with 7 turnovers, and the team ended up shooting below 40% on the night.

As satisfying as this game was, it was late in this game when Zaza Pachulia took a hard foul from Blake Griffin, an injury that is still causing him enough discomfort to keep him out of games more than a week later.

Game 2 – Warriors win ugly over the Jazz (106-99)

Even though the Jazz were without four of their five starters, they gave the Dubs a good run for our money. This was the second night of a back to back, and coach Steve Kerr opted to rest Shaun Livingston rather than Draymond Green (who re-aggravated his injured ankle, went to the locker room to have it re-taped and then came back into the game). As we’ve seen before from this team, it was a combination of overwhelming talent (to get the lead), lackadaisical implementation (to let it slip away), and an unusual night of excellence from the other team. Joe Ingles had 21 points, 5 rebounds, four steals on the night to go with Rudy Gobert’s 20 points and 17 rebounds.

Still, as we have come to expect from this iteration of the Warriors, our lethal combination of elite offense and ability to completely shut the other team down defensively eventually won this game for us.

Game 3 – Dubs fall to Memphis (110-89)

This was a bad one: the Warriors were down 61-38 at halftime behind some of the ugliest basketball we have seen this season. Kerr started Varejao, which should tell you all you need to know. That said, this game was a pretty well-rounded smacking that again fit the profile of the losses we have seen so far. Poor shooting from the Warriors doomed us, the other team getting points from unusual sources just put the dirt on top of the coffin. The Grizzlies won the points off turnover battle 30-9, and Tony frickin’ Allen somehow managed 19 points on 12 field goal attempts.

The Warriors were wretched.

It may have been due to the fact that the shots weren’t falling, but our lowly assist total (15 on the night) stands out like a sore thumb when you look at the box score after this one.

On the bright side, I think this was the game that Kerr realized you can’t play Anderson Varejao, and you sure as hell shouldn’t be starting him.

Game 4 – Warriors hold on to beat the T-Wolves (116-108)

Minnesota is one of those teams that seems poised to challenge the Warriors, but their team just isn’t quite all the way there yet.

Our guys got into some foul trouble early, with a string of six fouls called against all three centers (Kevon Looney, JaVale McGee and David West) in the first nine minutes of the first quarter. Thankfully, Klay was fantastic, delivering 30 points and an unprecedented (for him) six rebounds. Draymond helped out all over the place as well, chipping in a solid line of 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, two steals and a block.

Game 5 – Warriors barely beat the Pelicans (113-109)

I’ll link the highlights for this one because it was such a fun game! As seems to be the tradition, the Warriors came out shooting poorly and playing lazy defense, netting them a seven point deficit heading into the half. The second half however was a beautiful thing to behold. The third quarter was filled with displays of offensive dominance as the Warriors waltzed their way into the hearts of the basketball world through a lovely series of back door cuts, seamless transition attacks, and powerful dunks.

And then the fourth quarter happened. The Warriors put the Pelicans out of their misery by holding them to 15 points (including a complete shut out with no points in the final five minutes). Draymond Green and Kevin Durant both had some insane defensive plays in the closing quarter, making this one of the signature moments of the young season.

Back home for Game 6 – JaVale McGee signature win (Dubs win easy, 103-90 over the Knicks)

I know this was technically a home game, but after a brutal five games in seven nights this first one back still occurred after a day of travel for the Warriors and felt like the real end of the roadtrip to me.

Basketball is a tricky game to predict. Instead of coming out and demolishing the short-handed Knicks, the Warriors just flat out could not hit a shot to start this game. Yet whereas the Warriors quickly recovered (on their way to 41 assists on their 45 field goals on the night), the Knicks ended up at just under 41% shooting from the floor for the game.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this game was JaVale McGee’s performance. His 17 points are worth more than the box score indicates. After already being down one starting center in Pachulia, we lost super sub David West in this game, who's currently undergoing evaluation. In the short-term the Warriors will need McGee to not just play well, but also be able to play often. If he can stay out of foul trouble, the Warriors may have some interesting decisions to make once Zaza is back to full health again. The dynamic element McGee provides by pressuring the rim on both ends of the court appears to be a more natural compliment to our four starters.

Up next:

Damian Lillard and the Blazers come to town tomorrow! Keep your eyes on GSoM for the game preview tomorrow morning.

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