Warriors' road only getting tougher amid ugly losing streak


LOS ANGELES -- Going into the season, a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers seemed reasonable. A team full of aging Hollywood heroes had championship aspirations with expectations that LeBron James would bring another title to the most storied franchise in NBA history.

On March 5, a loss to LeBron's Lakers means rock bottom for the Warriors. 

The Warriors came into Crypto.com Arena with seven losses in their previous nine games. But the Lakers had lost eight of their last 10 and owned a four-game losing streak. Now, the Warriors are the ones who are owners of a season-high four-game losing streak after falling 124-116. It's only going to get harder, too. 

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and perhaps other top players will not be traveling to Denver for Monday night's game against the Nuggets, who already have beat Golden State twice this season. The reasoning is more or less due to Monday's game being a makeup contest for a postponement earlier in the season when the Nuggets had a COVID-19 outbreak.

Originally, the game was scheduled for Dec. 30. Instead, it's in the middle of the Warriors' worst stretch of the season and creates a back-to-back with the Warriors facing the LA Clippers in San Francisco the next night. 

"We are not sending a lot of our players to Denver," Kerr said after Saturday night's loss. "The decision was pretty easy. Throwing that game into the schedule the way the league did after that game was postponed and then going back to Denver -- three games in four nights, with two of those games being back and forth, we're not gonna put our high-minutes guys at risk." 

The reasoning is understandable. Maybe a break is exactly what Curry, Thompson, Wiggins and others need. The Warriors have to hope that's especially true for Klay and Wiggins after the two combined for only 20 points while going 9-for-28, an ugly 32.1 percent shooting. 

What's clear, however, is the Warriors' road is only going to get bumpier in the immediate future. The Warriors' next three games are in Denver, then back home quickly for a game against the Clippers and then another trip to the Rocky Mountains two days later. That's all in a four-day span. 

And what comes after that? Just a date with Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks two days following their battle with Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. 

Health always has been the top priority for the Warriors as they await the returns of Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and James Wiseman. The No. 1 seed is out of reach at this point, even with Chris Paul out for the Phoenix Suns. But this isn't even the second-best team in the Western Conference anymore. With their loss to the Lakers, the Warriors now are the No. 3 seed behind the hungry Memphis Grizzlies, a team that has beat them two out of the three games they have faced off. 

The Warriors are only three games ahead of the No. 4-seeded Utah Jazz and four ahead of the Dallas Mavericks, who own the No. 5 seed. 

"I couldn't care less about seeding," Curry said. "Just playing good basketball. I guess they go hand-in-hand if you want to finish and peak at the right time."

After a pause, Steph then didn't hold back, spelling out where this team stands as clear as the sun shining through what have been some awfully grey clouds of late. 

"Right now, if the playoffs started tomorrow, we'd be in some trouble," he said. "We gotta figure out how to get back on the right track. ... It's not gonna happen just on its own. We gotta do something about it and we have 18 games to do that." 

Curry's biggest concern right now is "giving into a losing mentality." Thompson looked almost defeated at times on the court and on the bench as he tries to regain his past form after missing two and a half seasons to two different leg injuries. Rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody now are playing vital roles, and the last thing you want is for them to get used to this or find themselves in their own mental funk. The same is true for 22-year-old Jordan Poole, who has faced a bizarrely up-and-down season but has found his swagger again the last two games after scoring 23 points Thursday night against the Mavs and then again in Saturday night's loss. 

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Help should be on the way, though it likely won't be in the immediate future. The most probable scenario of the Warriors getting some reinforcements in one, two or three of Draymond, Wiseman and Iguodala could come during their upcoming four-game homestand starting with that game against Giannis' Bucks. The next three opponents after the Bucks are the Washington Wizards (needed), the Boston Celtics (yikes) and the San Antonio Spurs (needed but you never know with Pop's squad). They then begin a five-game road trip starting in Orlando against the Magic, which should -- at least on paper -- be a welcomed easy opponent. 

First, the obstacle course could be a nightmare right out of American Ninja Warrior -- pun barely intended. 

The Warriors have 18 games to go before their true season begins. The benefit of the doubt is shrinking by the second, and shoveling their way out of rock bottom doesn't look like a guarantee in the next few games.

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