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This road trip might be the most important stretch of the season

It’s go time.

Andrew Wiggins walking off a plane with his luggage. Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors have four different road trips this year of five or more games.

So far they’ve gone horribly. The first, in late October and early November, saw the Dubs go 0-5, with losses to three of the worst teams in the league. The second, in mid-December, featured the Warriors going just 1-5, and was compounded by an injury to Steph Curry.

The fourth takes place in mid-March.

The third takes place right now.

The Dubs are on the road, preparing for a Friday night game against the San Antonio Spurs, which will take place at the Alamodome, with a record-setting attendance that will exceed 60,000 fans.

Then it’s a back-to-back against the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, two off days to say what’s up to President Biden, and a brutal back-to-back against the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, two of the league’s top teams.

Here’s a quick reminder as to where the Warriors stand on the road, per Cleaning the Glass.

Record: 3-16 (30th)
Offensive rating: 112.0 (17th)
Defensive rating: 121.4 (29th)
Net rating: -9.4 (28th)

Those numbers are exceptionally awful, but more importantly, they’re confusing. How does a team fall apart that dramatically on the road when they’ve been stellar (4th in record and net rating) at home?

The answer is both exceedingly simple and very complex.

The simple answer is one word long: defense. If you look at the difference between the Warriors at home and on the road, the thing that stands out is defense. The Warriors offense is 17th in the league at home and 17th in the league on the road. The Warriors defense is 3rd in the league at home and 29th in the league on the road.

The more complex answer tells us the why of that simple, one-word answer, but we — the people who cover the team, the fans, the coaches, and the players — are still searching for it.

Now is the time for the Warriors to start finding solutions. They start their road trip against three rough teams ... teams with the 26th, 16th, and 19th-best offenses in the league, respectively. They’ll have time to figure some things out before testing their (hopefully) new and improved road defense against the 2nd and 11th-best offenses in the league at the end of the trip.

Andrew Wiggins is back. Andre Iguodala is back, and let’s not forget he graded as one of the 10 best defenders in the NBA a year ago by EPM ... the stat may be quite hyperbolic, but the notion is less so.

There are no excuses. The Warriors defensive difference-makers — those two, plus Draymond Green and Klay Thompson — are all healthy. So is Steph Curry, with his perpetually underrated defense. So is Donte DiVincenzo, who is starting to really settle into the system and understand how to play Warriors basketball at both ends of the court.

If the Dubs fail the test on this road trip, they’ll only have one long road trip to sort things out. They don’t want to make it to mid-March still frantically in search of a way to play watchable basketball on the road.

Golden State could look awesome over the next five games, particularly on defense, and it will give you all the reason in the world to be optimistic about what they’ll do between now and mid-June. Or they could look awful, and you’ll find yourself starting to turn off your dreams about this team reaching the sky-high potential that actualized last season.

We’re about to find out.

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