Is Warriors' blowout loss to Pelicans new normal on back-to-backs?

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Is this Dubs' new normal with cautious back-to-back plan? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Warriors on Sunday gave their traveling fan base, and even the road crowd, a night to remember in their 127-120 win over the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center. Hell, even Houston's bench couldn't help but enjoy the show.

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Klay Thompson scored 41 points and made 10 3-pointers. Steph Curry dropped 33 points in one of the best overall games one can have, adding 15 assists, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Andrew Wiggins added 22 points and Draymond Green did what does, dishing eight assists and grabbing six rebounds. The next night, they all wore street clothes in a 45-point loss.

None of Curry, Thompson, Wiggins or Green played Monday night against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center. The result was a 128-83 loss, the biggest margin of deficit in a Warriors loss this season, and the first time they failed to score at least 100 points.

Golden State's latest blowout loss begs the question: Is this the Warriors' new normal on back-to-backs? Their understandably cautious approach isn't doing them any short-term favors.

"This is one of those things, last year Draymond missed half the year with a back injury," Kerr said to reporters 90 minutes before tipoff. "You get into a situation where you start chasing your tail a little bit and you don't listen to the performance team and all of the sudden guys are out for a long period time. We just can't risk that.

"I do feel terrible for fans here, but unfortunately that is how the schedule laid out. It's too bad."

Through their first 18 games, the 8-10 Warriors now have played four sets of back-to-backs. They're 2-6 in those eight games and have won only once on the second night of a back-to-back. That lone win came one week ago against the San Antonio Spurs, but it was at home and it featured Curry, Green and Wiggins.

The one missing piece was Thompson, who sat the second night of a back-to-back all four times this season. He continues to say he'd like to play back-to-backs at some points this season, but trusts the training staff. Odds are the plan isn't changing in the near future.

Playing it safe with Thompson is both the plan and an understandable one. The same goes with Green, whose career has been centered on his body defying the odds. Curry and Wiggins are the more curious additions to this cautious approach.

In Curry's case, he is the eldest of the group and will be 35 years old in March. He does have an injury history, missed the final two weeks of the regular season last March and then aggravated the same ankle injury in the NBA Finals. His injury designation this season has been for right elbow soreness, and not just from the plethora of points he's scoring every night.

Curry does have his right elbow wrapped on the bench during games. The issue hasn't been addressed and it clearly hasn't been bad enough to slow him down. What about Wiggins?

He's only 27 years old. Wiggins isn't exactly a vet like Steph, Klay or Draymond. In the two games he has missed, both on the road against the Pelicans, Wiggins has been out with left foot soreness. Both games also have been the second night of a back-to-back.

Kerr isn't concerned about the number of players who have been on the injury report early. He also didn't hold back how the Warriors are different than other teams.

"No, not at all," Kerr said when asked if he's worried at all. "We've been doing this for a long time and our players work really, really hard to stay ready and to hopefully play through June, which we've done six times in the last eight years. We also play a ton of nationally televised games. We fly more than any team in the league, year after year. We see a lot of teams are doing the back-to-back in one city. We don't do any of that.

"We understand we have a responsibility in this league with our position, the franchise that we are, to try to put on the best show that we can every night, but that also includes maintaining the guys' health in the long term. We're handling this the best way that we can."

Here's some good news and bad news regarding the Warriors' schedule: They still have 11 back-to-backs to go. However, eight of their 15 back-to-backs are in their first 36 games. The final 46 feature seven back-to-backs.

With nearly all of their decisions this year, the Warriors are taking a big-picture, long-term view. They know what players like Curry, Thompson, Green and Wiggins can do for them in the regular season. They also know how much more valuable they are in the playoffs.

Andre Iguodala isn't here for November basketball. The Warriors had their eyes on March, April, May and June when they brought him back for one final season over the offseason. More experience is on the way, and that's what the young Warriors gained Monday night.

"Yeah, experience," Kerr said after the loss when asked about a silver lining. "We've got a whole bunch of guys, you go down the list -- they need reps. They need basketball experience. We've got a couple rookies, a couple second-year guys, couple of guys who haven't played a ton of basketball so every game that they get, every practice, it's important.

"What I found early in my playing career was it takes a couple of years to really get comfortable playing on an NBA floor. Unless you're LeBron [James] or someone like that, it definitely takes a couple of years. So we have to be patient and like I said, I have to do a better job of coaching them."

One of those players was rookie Patrick Baldwin Jr. The No. 28 overall pick from last June's NBA draft scored his first career points and made his first 3-pointer.

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Baldwin, 20, tallied seven points and also had six rebounds and three steals. The loss was only the third game he has played in this season. Coming into the night, he had played under five total minutes in a Warriors uniform.

He wound up playing 15 in New Orleans.

"I just think collectively as a young players trying to figure it out in the league, we got to figure out how to compete," Baldwin Jr. said. "Even when the odds may be stacked against us. I think we did that well at some points tonight.

"I think tonight was just about competing and heart, and I think naturally that's what I took away from this game."

Young players like Baldwin gained experience in the Big Easy, and that's needed with how the Warriors' roster is constructed. Jonathan Kuminga, 20,  played a game-high 39 minutes and scored 18 points. But he was a minus-38 in plus-minus. Moses Moody, 20, played 33 minutes off the bench, had 10 points but three turnovers and was a minus-29. Second-round pick Ryan Rollins, 20, saw 16 minutes of action and finished with three points and three rebounds, but turned the ball over five times and was called for three fouls.

James Wiseman's experience is coming in the G League right now. He played his second game with the Santa Cruz Warriors, scoring 15 points in 23 minutes with 11 rebounds. Wiseman also turned the ball over five times and was a minus-7 in plus/minus rating, the only Santa Cruz player who didn't have a positive plus/minus.

RELATED: Kerr believes G League will help Wiseman build foundation

Kerr won't be able to save all of his veteran stars during back-to-backs the rest of the season. Thompson might not play both nights of a back-to-back the entire time. Green is sure to get extra days of rest, too. There also is reason to believe there's strategy with how Kerr has handled the schedule so far.

Getting Iguodala back is one piece of the puzzle. So is the development of the young players, the give and take with this whole plan. The biggest piece to it all is the health of the Warriors' Big Three, along with Wiggins and Jordan Poole. Everything else comes secondary.

Understanding the norm of the Warriors is an impossible ask. The unpredictability is part of what has made this all so special. It feels a bit different now, though.

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