Warriors breaking road losing streak meaningless without beating Mavericks
Dubs breaking road losing streak moot without beating Mavs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The Warriors' bizarre, 11-game road losing streak that lasted nearly two months came to a close Monday night at Toyota Center in their 121-108 win over the Houston Rockets. Following the win, reporters in Houston and those watching over Zoom waited and waited and waited for coach Steve Kerr to address the media.
Was the wait a cause for celebration? From the sound of his voice, the reason was quite opposite. Perhaps this was yet another reality check for the defending NBA champions with only nine games remaining in the 2022-23 regular season.
"We needed it," Kerr told reporters in Houston. "I actually felt like we played decently in the first three games of this trip. Lost all three, but had our chances in all three. I liked our effort, I liked our execution.
"Ironically, I thought this was the worst of the four games that we played on this trip."
Golden State's five-game road trip started with losses to the Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies. As of this publishing, the Clippers are the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, the Hawks are the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Grizzlies are the No. 2 seed in the West. The Rockets might as well not even have a seed.
They're the No. 15 seed in the West. In reality, they're the No. 30 seed in the NBA.
Houston has the worst record in basketball at 18-54. The Rockets are filled with players 22 years old and younger. Though they have played better down the stretch, the franchise's main goal is finding a savior in Victor Wembanyama.
This isn't a team fighting for playoff seeding. It's a team pushing for the top pick in the 2023 NBA draft.
"Our focus level was pathetic to start the game," Draymond Green said. "You come into a game like this and you know it's a young, athletic team. They're going to get into passing lanes and we were real careless with the ball."
Going into the game, the Warriors and Rockets gave away the most turnovers in the league. Those numbers played out on the court, especially from the start for the Warriors.
For the first time since Feb. 2, the Warriors actually held a lead after the first quarter on the road. They were up 26-21, thanks in large part to the Rockets struggling mightily with their shots. The Warriors went 2-of-9 shooting from deep in that first period but feasted down low with 18 points in the paint.
And then, as they have done so often this season, the Warriors strayed away from what was working and became flippant with the basketball. In the first three-plus minutes of the second quarter, the Warriors turned the ball over three times and missed five straight 3-pointers. Just like that, it was a one-point game until Steph Curry sank his first three of the night.
Overall, the Warriors turned the ball over 14 times in the first half and led by five points. Almost all of the turnovers came from big names, too. Curry was responsible, as was Green. Jordan Poole couldn't hang onto the ball and his turnover troubles continued.
Luckily for the Warriors, turnovers were limited in the second half and their defense -- for the most part -- tightened up. The change started with a halftime straightening from Kerr.
"Coach challenged us coming out of the half," Green said. "We were able to lock in after those first couple of minutes of the third quarter. ... I thought we did a pretty good job of cleaning it up after a while."
In the second half, the Warriors totaled six turnovers. Two of those came in the first three-plus minutes of the third quarter. The message mostly was received, but the Warriors still needed help.
The Rockets scored the same amount of points (29) as Golden State in the second quarter. The Warriors then were outscored 30-29 in the third quarter. A limping Curry scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and was forced to stay in the game down the stretch to beat the NBA's worst team.
"We know we still have to play better," Curry said. "Nobody's really celebrating or anything. It's just a matter of learning lessons in wins, hopefully, and get ready for another big game Wednesday."
That's when the real test comes. Over and over again this season, there have been what feels like must-win games for the Warriors. Wednesday night in Dallas is the latest.
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Thanks to the Warriors squeaking past the Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks blowing a 13-point lead to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Warriors now are out of the play-in tournament as the No. 6 seed -- a half-game ahead of the Mavs. Now, the two teams square off Wednesday night at American Airlines Center with plenty on the line.
A win would give the Warriors the tiebreaker on the season series with Dallas. The Warriors lost the first meeting by three and won the second by six. They won't win the third if they allow 25 points off 20 turnovers.
That's true whether Luka Dončić, who has missed the last five games to a thigh injury, can play or not. Same goes with Kyrie Irving, who aggravated his foot injury Monday night and left the arena in a walking boot. Giving the Mavs that many free chances on their home court isn't going to cut it.
Kerr knows it, as do his players. The Warriors out-talented the Rockets and used their experience to their advantage. Coming off an NBA championship, their first priority now is avoiding the dreaded play-in tournament.
A date in Dallas will be a major determining factor in what happens next.
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