High off the joy of a successful All-Star weekend, the Golden State Warriors made their way up to Portland for a showcase against the Trail Blazers.
For all accounts, when looking at the current six game road trip that the Warriors are on, this one looked like the "winnable".
Tomorrow's trip down to L.A. to face the harder of the SoCal teams in prime-time seems much more challenging. Then they head out east to face Atlanta and the Heat, two playoff bound teams. They touch down in Orlando before the hardest matchup of them all - a stop in OKC.
The Chicago Bulls' single-season wins mark still looms large. There is no mystery anymore that the team wants the record badly. The players openly admit it, the fans sure want to see it. All involved agree on one thing: the record means nothing if there is no title to match it.
There were a few reminders that came from last night's loss to Portland:
- Portland is a great team. They are led by Damian Lillard and the young rising talents of C.J. McCollum and a whole slew of spry talent that ran the Warriors off the floor last night. This team might be the 7th seed, but they have Memphis and the 5th seed in sight. This is great for the Warriors as nobody wants to face this team in the first round of a series.
- Any team can beat you on any given night, especially if you turn the ball over on the road. Just because you have the league's best record doesn't mean you get a pass, in fact quite the opposite. Teams will love beating you, refs will stop giving you favors, and fans will cheer louder when you get beat.
- The wins record is so impossibly hard to achieve and increasingly impressive to appreciate. Nights like Friday night are unavoidable in a long season, which makes being 48-5 that much more impressive. All teams face these nights, but the Warriors have been able to avoid them so often. But games like this, and the Detroit game, happen periodically and you just have to shake it off.
The team is still on pace to break the 72 game mark for the season, but as pointed out this record cannot come with the sacrifice of the long term goals. If more games happen like this, will the Warriors eventually concede that resting and a slowed pace might help more in the long run?
Putting the game in perspective, let's point out a few quick good and bad points about the loss:
Bad: The Warriors lost because Damian Lillard's 51 points might happen on any given night
Damian Lillard scoring 51 points as an impressive feat. It was aided by a horribly officiated game that wore the Warriors down and killed their rhythm. Lillard was able to take advantage and feed off the loud home crowd, showing no mercy on his end of the backcourt duel. He hit 9-12 from deep, 6-7 from the line, and pretty much got any basket he wanted to. It is a reminder that there are amazing offensive talents in this league, like Lillard and Russel Westbrook and LeBron James, who can score in large numbers on any given night. Though Lillard was great, the Warriors didn't look particularly interested in playing defense, leading the the Blazers shooting 54%.
Bad: The Warriors turnovers were again a huge issue
As Portland came out to a hot first-half, Golden State was able to stay in the game by taking good care of the ball and riding the hot shooting of Curry in the first half. As Steph kept making threes, the Warriors actually found themselves only down by six at the half, with 6 turnovers on the board.
Then, the second half hit. As Portland ran away with it, the Warriors gave up careless pass after careless pass, watching the Blazers out-hustle the team to every ball. One of the trademarks of the Warriors is their I.Q. and tenacity, both of which was apparently left on vacation.
When Golden State gets lazy, they attempt to push every loose ball into a break, a forced way to get quick points and get back into the game. Portland shut this off by simply playing center field after every shot, counting on Golden State not to adjust and to simply shoot themselves in the foot. Other teams have done this, which has led to gaudy turnover numbers all season. It is hard to call these turnovers of agreession as much as turnovers of laziness. They produce live-ball changes of the court and easy layups for opponents.
On the road, they turn into extending scoring streaks and momentum for their opponent. The Warriors must learn to control the ball when stressed and to run the methodic offense, even when they are down. The system will produce results, and watching them force will only dig more holes down the stretch. 20 turnovers is simply inexcusable.
Good: The Warriors looked tired, but thankfully the starters got rest in the blowout
Silver lining: Kerr rightfully conceded the loss and was able to rest his starters in preparation for the long trip. Only Draymond Green logged over 30 minutes last night.
Green, obviously frustrated last night when the calls didn't go his way, needs to give himself some deeper perspective and realize that he is dangerously close to suspension for his continued technicals. Sure, he fooled around and almost had a triple-double last night. But he also chipped in a team-high and shockingly bad nine turnovers. Can we credit his difficult match ups against Noah Vonleh or Al-Farouq Aminu? Maybe, but I might blame his trip to Toronto more. Green is going to need games off down the stretch.. which leads to..
The loss is not the end of the world. The Warriors have rebounded after every loss this season. After losing in Detroit, they promptly won 11 in a row, including blowouts on the road in Cleveland and Chicago. Steve Kerr will rally his troops and things will be fine. But how long will the All-Star fog last? Could the team find themselves coming out of this trip 3-3? And what impact will that have on the front office pumping the breaks on the push for the record in favor of rest? Much will be known after Saturday's game against the Clippers, but momentum is not on the team's side right now, and LAC is playing great basketball. Could we see the Warrior's first two-game losing streak of the season?