Can Warriors conquer their road demons? It's now or never


SAN FRANCISCO – Here they come again, the biggest of the beasts to haunt the Warriors during this tortured, historically uneven season.

Road cities have been their downfall on a regular basis, and they visit five over the next nine days.

Klay Thompson believes the Warriors, this time, will conquer the demons that have slayed them from the first road trip, when they went 0-5, to the last road trip, when they were 0-3.

“I think we're going to do it with these next five games,” Thompson said late Monday night, after his 38-point outburst sent the Warriors to a 123-112 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

That concluded a two-game homestand that pushed Golden State to 29-7 at Chase Center. The team is, however, 7-26 everywhere else, as in 22 different cities, from the first road loss at Phoenix in October, to the last at Memphis last week.

That’s the baggage the Warriors take to Los Angeles, where they face the Clippers on Wednesday, followed by trips to Atlanta (Friday), Memphis (Saturday), Houston (March 20) and Dallas (March 22).

“I think we're going to come out of this road trip with a lot of great momentum,” Thompson said. “And although history this season has been not so good to us, I think it's our time to ramp up our ability to win games.”

It’s the only time, really. Of the 13 games remaining on the Warriors’ schedule, only five are at Chase, where they have won eight in a row. Eight games are on the road, where they have, gulp, lost eight in a row.

No matter how well the Warriors play at home, failure to reverse the trend on the road during this trip – and with the three road games next month – will result in severe consequences.

They’ll probably cost themselves any reasonable chance of finishing among the top six teams in the Western Conference and avoiding the play-in tournament.

And if the five-game trip goes anywhere near as horribly as the last one, the defending NBA champions will fumble their opportunity to reach their most desired goal: finishing in the top four, thereby assuring homecourt advantage in the first round.

“It's got to start with the defense,” coach Steve Kerr said. “If you look at the numbers, our defensive stats, at home, are really good, or one of the top few teams in the entire NBA in terms of defensive rating, And then on the road, we're one of the worst.

“It has to start with the defense.”

That’s where it started Monday. Golden State bared its defensive fangs from the opening tip, building a 12-point lead in less than six minutes, going up 43-21 in the first quarter and maintaining a double-digit lead for all but eight of the remaining 42 minutes. 

The Warriors this time were even stingier in the first quarter than they were in the previous game, when they limited the imposing Milwaukee Bucks to 41.7-percent shooting while taking a 28-26 lead after one quarter.

After usually falling behind early, often by double digits, the Warriors might have solved their first-quarter blues. Might.

“It’s important because you want to assert yourself early and make the game as easy as possible and give yourself some life early,” Stephen Curry explained. “We need to do it on the road.”

If Curry seems to be in a more skeptical place than Thompson, it’s not necessarily because he is older – he turned 35 on Tuesday – or has played more games. It’s because he has put this team’s season under his own microscope and has reached the point where seeing is believing.

“Even when we’ve been down big,” Curry said, “we fought back and found our way back into a game. So, you want to put good quarters together and stack them up. And we did that at home these last two [games].

“Now the challenge is what do we do on Wednesday.”

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And Friday. And Saturday. And next Monday. And next Wednesday.

The Warriors have taken punishment from places all over the mainland map, many times once and sometimes twice. When they’ve arrived at an arena that’s not Chase Center, they’ve become chumps, while some of the least threatening opponents in the NBA seem to mutate into monsters.

This trip is their last chance to fight back, five chances to reconstitute what remains of their fabled “championship DNA" and end the cycle of abuse.

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