Warriors' road misery won't end until they fix slow starts

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After losing to the Lakers on Sunday in Los Angeles, the Warriors walked out of Crypto.com Arena with a 7-24 record on the road. It’s an abysmal statistic but a deeper look reveals it gets worse. Much worse.

As in a particular Warriors’ 15-game road losing streak. It doesn’t apply to every road game, though. Only those in which they fall behind in the first quarter – as they did to a Lakers team without LeBron James.

Put starkly, not once this season have the Warriors won a road game in which they trailed after the first quarter.

Trailing 33-18 after the first 12 minutes led directly to a 113-105 final that drags Golden State to 0-15 when it spends the final three quarters trying to overcome a sorry first.

This loss spoiled the return of Stephen Curry, ended a five-game win streak and, moreover, chills the considerable momentum generated at Chase Center, which they hoped to carry onto the road.

This was the ninth game in a row – six at home, three on the road – in which the Warriors failed to build a first-quarter lead. What’s behind the slow starts?

“I wish I had an answer for you,” Draymond Green told reporters in LA. “I don’t.”

Prior to tipoff against the Clippers last Thursday, I asked coach Steve Kerr about the team’s slow starts. (The Warriors had built a lead in one of their previous nine games.)

“Coaching, mostly,” Kerr said, injecting trace of self-deprecating humor before addressing the question. “I think in those nine games we've done OK, results-wise. We've finished a lot of those games with strong second-halves. I'd rather have that than the quick start and a fade, but it would be nice to get off to a little quicker start.”

The statistical fact is that his attitude, for this team, is more appropriate for home games. The Warriors have done a tremendous job of wiping out deficits in the second half and rolling to victory at Chase.

On the road? Not so. Not close.

And they all know why. Kerr and each member of his staff know. Draymond and every player on the roster know.

Defense.

“Defensively, our road splits have been trash all year – in all categories,” Curry said. “Trying to correct that as much as possible is our challenge. First quarter, we were down 20. To fight our back shows how much it matters to us to try and get over the hump on the road. We’ve just got to have a better start.”

The Warriors, who believed they had solved their defensive woes during their home win streak, immediately reverted to previous form on Sunday. In racing through the Warriors from the opening tip, the Lakers made nine of their first 12 shots and took a 23-10 lead. They shot only 44.4 percent (12 of 27) for the quarter only because they missed their last eight shots in the quarter.

“Not bad,” Kerr said in his general assessment. “After the start, 33 points in the first quarter, and then the last three we did a pretty good job.”

This is true. The Warriors picked up the defense, limiting the Lakers to 39.6-percent shooting over the final three quarters and outscoring them 87-80. They won the final three quarters.

But it was not enough. Not for a team that is 0-17 when trailing after three quarters on the road. Losing the first quarter cost Golden State the victory.

The shot of adrenaline that came with the return of Andre Iguodala and Curry wasn’t enough to keep the Warriors from succumbing to the enemy they’ve yet to conquer – and is starting to feel unconquerable.

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Their road game has been holding them back, and likely will continue to until they’re able to walk into another team’s house and become attack dogs from the first minute. Put an opponent on its heels. Set a tone.

If the Warriors don’t finish among the top four teams in the Western Conferences, they’ll know why. Same if they finish seventh or worse.

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