But the Golden State Warriors have used their current five-game jaunt across the East Coast as an opportunity to get their season back together. They started with wins over two lottery-bound teams, then split the games against the aforementioned elite East squads. And now they finish things off against the Washington Wizards.
A 3-2 road trip is a perfectly fine thing. A 4-1 road trip, on the other hand, is how teams start to rise up the standings, which is exactly what Golden State has set out to do. Now’s a chance to end the trip in style.
Who: Golden State Warriors (29-29) vs. Washington Wizards (24-33)
When: 4:00 p.m. PT
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area (available on fuboTV)
Projected starting lineups:
Warriors: Stephen Curry, Kent Bazemore, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
Wizards: Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Raul Neto, Deni Avdija, Alex Len
Warriors: Beat the 76ers 107-96 — 4-1 in their last 5 games
Wizards: Beat the Thunder 119-107 — 5-0 in their last 5 games
Team ratings (garbage-time adjusted, per Cleaning The Glass):
Warriors: 110.2 offense (21st), 111.4 defense (9th), -1.2 net (18th)
Wizards: 109.7 offense (24th), 113.1 defense (18th), -3.4 net (23rd)
OUT — Juan Toscano-Anderson
OUT — Eric Paschall
OUT — James Wiseman
OUT — Klay Thompson
QUESTIONABLE — Damion Lee.
OUT — Thomas Bryant
OUT — Rui Hachimura
The last time these two teams met, the Warriors suffered a spectacularly bad loss, in which they managed to make mistake after mistake, and blow a three-point lead in the closing seconds.
It felt symbolic of a rough season, and kind of temporarily shut the doors on any hopes of the Warriors proving to be good this year. It felt like rock bottom at the time.
It feels even more like rock bottom in hindsight, because the Warriors, to their credit, bounced back from it with a four-game winning streak, and five wins in six games.
The Wizards also used it as a launching point: it was their second game in a stretch of seven wins in eight games, including five in a row.
Both teams are cooking. The Warriors just need to find a way to not do what they did last time.
Players to watch
Warrior to watch: Kelly Oubre Jr.
Oubre returned to action on Monday, and while he didn’t do too much on offense, he had a strong night defensively. He also came off the bench, with Steve Kerr saying they’ll stick with their current starting lineup for as long as it continues to look like the best option. After a strong win against the 76ers, I’m sure it still looks like the best option, so we can expect to see Oubre starting this game on the sidelines.
Can he provide a strong scoring boost off the bench? Will he come in early to provide defense on Bradley Beal? Will he be engaged and motivated after his prior comments about being able to offer more than a bench role? Oubre has everything it takes to be a stellar sixth man — it will be fun to see if he can provide that.
Wizard to watch: Russell Westbrook.
Beal is the best player on the Wizards, by a sizable margin. But you could make the case that Westbrook is the person who most impacts their chances of winning on any given night. Westbrook is capable of putting up MVP-level performances every time out, and is averaging a triple-double for the fourth time in his career, with 21.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 10.9 assists per game.
But his inefficiency as a scorer, his desire to often stop the ball and go to work, and his oftentimes poor defense lead to a fair number of nights where he feels like the primary reason Washington loses.
Let Russ get to cooking, and the Warriors could be in trouble. But play to his weaknesses and it could be a smooth night at the office.
Matchup to watch: Warriors bench vs. Wizards bench.
We all know that Golden State hasn’t had a strong bench this year, but neither has Washington. And the Warriors should have the advantage here: long-time starter Oubre is currently leading the second unit, while two of the Wizards top bench players have been put in the starting lineup to replace the injured Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura.
The Warriors need contributions from players like Oubre, Jordan Poole, and Damion Lee (if he plays — he’s listed as questionable), and they need to win this matchup. If the Dubs can increase their lead when Steph Curry is on the bench, they’ll head back to the Bay Area happy.
Keys to victory
- Another “Steph Curry is the best player in the NBA” performance
- Make Russell Westbrook, not Bradley Beal, beat you
- Keep the Wizards from having easy shots at the rim and the foul line
Bring it home, Dubs.