Confident Warriors still must prove they can thrive on road


SAN FRANCISCO – For the second time in 11 days, the Warriors are leaving nirvana and returning to the land in which they’ve gotten no love.

That would be any NBA arena not named Chase Center, where the Warriors won Games 3 and 4 to pull into a 2-2 tie in their first-round Western Conference playoff series against the Sacramento Kings.

Game 5 is scheduled for Wednesday night and will take the Warriors back to Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, where they lost Games 1 and 2.

Despite their 0-2 postseason road record – which followed an 11-30 regular-season road record – the Warriors have convinced themselves that the past need not be prologue.

“We’re a different team now,” coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday after practice.

“It’s a true statement,” Andrew Wiggins said, echoing his coach.

Kerr’s brief analysis of Games 1 and 2 was that Golden State’s defense – which trended toward abysmal in regular-season road games – held up well against Sacramento’s NBA-best offense.

“I don’t really look back and compare anything that’s happening now to October or November because we’re a different team,” Kerr said. “I look at Games 1 and 2 in Sacramento and, despite not playing very well especially offensively and turning (the ball) over, we gave ourselves a chance by defending in the half court.

“That’s what's different about our team right now. Rather than say, ‘Well, it’s been this way all year’ . . . We’re different now. We’re much better defensively. This is the best offensive team in the league, and through four games we’ve gone a pretty good job.”

The raw numbers offer rebuttal.

The Warriors posted an impressive 106.2 defensive rating in the two victories at Chase. Their defensive rating in the two games at Golden 1 Center was an appreciably worse 115.4 – though surely skewed poorly by Sacramento’s ability to turn Golden State live-ball turnovers into transition buckets.

A 9.2-point difference does not imply the Warriors have discovered a solution to a problem that nagged them for six months.

The results, however, were the same. After being outplayed on the road, the Warriors were the more impressive team after returning home. They posted a decisive win in Game 3 and then held on for a one-point victory in Game 4.

Yet the expressions, perhaps influenced by two consecutive wins, are the Warriors of late April are not the Warriors of October through, well, April 17.

The faith within the team stems mostly from the trade-deadline acquisition of Gary Payton II and the return of Wiggins on April 15 after a two-month leave of absence.

“We’ve come a long way,” said Wiggins, failing to acknowledge the home/road splits. “We’ve gotten better offensively and defensively, obviously, adding GP. We’ve made some strides in the right direction, at the right time.”

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For the record, Golden State’s regular-season defensive ratings were 108.4 (home) and 118.3 (road). A 9.9 difference in the postseason is similar to that which the team experienced in the regular season.

The home/road splits through the first four games indicate the Warriors still have a lot to prove before they can claim victory over their most persistent nemesis.

Put simply, the Warriors, even with Wiggins rounding into form and GP2 getting a bump in playing time for Game 5, still must generate evidence that proves they can be as competitive on the road as they are at home.

Maybe a measure of evidence supporting the belief will surface in Game 5. Otherwise, this could be a seven-game series.

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