Warriors' seven-game stretch bound to reveal some truths originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO – After trudging through the first six weeks of the season, the Warriors now are on the cusp of honesty if not clarity.
The next seven games, beginning Saturday against the Celtics, should provide the first true indication of whether the Warriors can mobilize their assets and begin a vigorous defense of their 2022 NBA championship.
The first 26 games provided little more than a few glimpses at how underwhelming they are. There might not be a more spirited discussion about the Warriors than discerning which of their 13 losses was most aggravating. The list of candidates grew by two this week, when they were stung at home by the starless Pacers and then blew a four-point lead in the final eight seconds at Utah.
Yet the Warriors are only four games behind the first-place Pelicans in the Western Conference and only two games out of the top five.
So, I asked Draymond Green on Friday if the Warriors, who have lost nine games by single digits, if the team feels it is close to finding its winning touch or still has a lot to clean up.
“Both,” he said after a long pause. “Both.
“. . . It’s a mixture of having a lot of stuff to clean up and a lot of stuff to learn, and yet a team that’s right there, knocking on the door of breaking through.”
After spending most of October and November below .500, the Warriors during Thanksgiving weekend climbed above that mark. They’ve remained at .500 or above for almost two weeks.
Donte DiVincenzo, who joined the Warriors in July as a free agent, clearly has scanned the standings. He exuded patience and a sense of belief in where the team is headed.
“I always have to remember these guys played in The Finals,” he said. “It’s a long season (for them), and I was off since April. Guys are getting their legs, still getting their rhythm.
“But it’s time to take that next step as a team. Draymond talked about it today at practice. Just being able to lock in and take that next step, rack up some of these wins together, in a streak. The way the West is, we’re not out of it. We’re not far out of it at all. We just got to take that next step as a team, lock in, get a couple in a row. And then the standings are going to look completely different.”
But the barriers faced over the next couple of weeks are immense.
First come the Celtics, vanquished by Golden State six months ago in the NBA Finals. They come into Chase Center with the best record (21-5) in the league and the No. 1 offensive rating (119.9) by a light year, as the gap between Boston and second-place Phoenix is greater than that between the Suns and the 12th-place Trail Blazers.
“They look incredible,” Green conceded.
So, the immediate task for the Warriors is massive. They’re home underdogs for the first time this season, and justifiably, despite their 11-2 record at Chase.
It gets no easier for Golden State next week when the team leaves for a 10-day road trip through six cities in the Eastern Conference. It opens Tuesday in Milwaukee, where the Bucks have the second-best record in the league. The next night, it’s on to Indiana, where Pacers stars Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner, unavailable in Indy’s win this week, have recovered.
“This will be a tough trip for us; a six-game East Coast trip is never easy for anybody,” Green said. “It will be a tough trip, but I think it’s good for us.”
It will be revealing.
For the Warriors to climb above .500 by Christmas, when they face the Grizzlies at Chase Center, they need to win at least four of those seven games.
If they pull that off, Dub Nation will have good reason to be encouraged.
If the Warriors get worked – remember, their 0-5 record on their first trip through the East included games against bottom-feeders Charlotte, Detroit and Orlando – it’s time to face the truth.
That these Warriors, as constituted, remain closer to mediocrity than to the standard they have set most of the decade.