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11/26 Weekly Preview: Bring on the road trip

A five-game road trip begins on Thursday. Are the Warriors prepared?

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike last week, the Golden State Warriors are starting this week on a winning streak, and without the major internal strife. The table is set for them to have a good week, even if there’s some fierce competition on the horizon.

Now’s as good of a chance as any to make some noise in the busy and bustling Western Conference.


Position entering the week

Record: 14-7
Conference standings: 2nd
Net rating: 5th (+5.2)


This week’s games

Monday, November 26 vs the Orlando Magic (10-10)

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV: NBC Sports Bay Area

What to watch for: The Magic are, against all odds, kind of decent. And the Warriors, since Steph Curry’s injury, have struggled with teams that are decent or better. Orlando won’t be intimidated, but will the Warriors take them seriously and bring their A-game?

Why they could win: While the Warriors are still without Curry and Draymond Green, they have Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. The Magic players tasked with defending those two? Wesley Iwundu and Evan Fournier. That could be the game, right there.

Why they could lose: The Warriors weakness, especially with Green out, is their frontcourt. That just so happens to be Orlando’s first, second, and third strengths. The Warriors will struggle to defend Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic and, when they head to the bench, out come Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba.

Opponent to watch: Nikola Vucevic. Poor Vooch. He’s not even the best center in the NBA with his own first name. Yet that shouldn’t hide the fact that he has been exceptional this season, averaging 20.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game, while shooting 40.0% from deep and sporting a 61.4% true-shooting percentage. He’s been spectacular.

Thursday, November 29 at the Toronto Raptors (17-4)

When: 5:00 p.m.

TV: TNT and NBC Sports Bay Area

What to watch for: The Warriors start a five-game road trip with one of the toughest opponents around. You can easily make the case that the Raptors have been the best team in the league this year - they sport the NBA’s top record by a comfortable margin, and are second in net rating. Their offense is ranked third, and their defense seventh, and they’ve done it all despite resting Kawhi Leonard six times. They are good, and a serious test for the Warriors.

Why they could win: This game could very well come down to the superstar matchup of Leonard vs Kevin Durant. If you want to put your eggs in the Durant basket, I don’t think anyone will criticize you.

Why they could lose: In case you missed the stats above, Toronto is seventh in defense, third in offense, and second in net rating. They are absurdly good in every facet of the game, and have numerous ways to beat the Warriors.

Opponent to watch: Pascal Siakam. In just his third year, Siakam developed into a stud of a player. He can score inside, he can score outside, he can get down the court in transition. He can defend at the rim, or switch onto the perimeter. He can rebound. He can pass. He’s athletically fascinating. If nothing else, he’s just a immensely enjoyable player to watch.

Saturday, December 1 at the Detroit Pistons (10-7)

When: 4:00 p.m.

TV: NBC Sports Bay Area

What to watch for: This is the second of five consecutive road games for the Warriors. What’s their energy look like? Are they motivated and ready to make a statement? Or are they lethargic and over it? The way they play in this game could determine a lot about the next week.

Why they could win: Guarding Kevin Durant isn’t an easy task for anyone, but it’s really not an easy task for this Pistons team. They simply don’t have anyone with the size, athleticism, or defensive skills to even make life hard for KD.

Why they could lose: On the other hand, the Pistons’ frontcourt has been stellar this year. The way the Warriors centers have defended the interior and rebounded the ball, it’s hard to see them containing Andre Drummond, who is averaging a league-best 16.1 rebounds per game (to go along with 19.5 points).

Opponent to watch: Blake Griffin. Griffin is having something of a career renaissance in his first full season with Detroit. He’s not the dunk machine that he once was, but he’s expanded his game, and as a result he’s averaging 24.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game, while shooting 38.5% from deep. Hopefully Draymond Green is back on the court for this matchup.


This week’s storylines

Health?

Forgive me if I’m getting repetitive. I think this has been a storyline in every single weekly preview I’ve done this year. The Warriors begin the week with Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Alfonzo McKinnie all sidelined with injuries. Will any or all of them return during the week?

Kevin Durant’s mojo

For a few games following his altercation with Green, Kevin Durant looked out of it. He was a bit passive, and struggled mightily with his efficiency and his all-around game. That changed last week. In the Warriors last three games, KD averaged 34.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 2.7 blocks per game. He’s clearly engaged, and playing at the highest level. Let’s see if he keeps that up for this week.

Center rotation

The Warriors center rotation has been changing on a nightly basis. Damian Jones and Kevon Looney have been taking turns in the starting role, and also taking turns playing really well and really poorly. Jordan Bell - stuck on the back of the bench all year - has suddenly been seeing big minutes, and making the most of them. We’re still about a month away from the return of DeMarcus Cousins, and this week may tell us something about who is going to get the bulk of the minutes going forward.