After the Golden State Warriors delivered a pair of victories that seemed to signal a renewed sense of energy with the playoffs on the horizon, the team now must address one of its season-long demons.
While victories over each of last season’s NBA finalists — the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday and the Phoenix Suns on Monday — showed the Warriors’ championship pedigree, they now hit the road, where their play has been far from title-contender worthy. Golden State heads south to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
No playoff-eligible team has fewer road victories than the Warriors’ seven this season. Golden State is just one of four teams in the entire NBA that does not have double-digit road victories and only the lowly San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets have fewer at six apiece.
The Warriors not only have an eight-game road losing streak, but they are also giving up 123.8 points per game in road games, compared to 111.7 points at home.
Monday’s 123-112 victory over the Suns came after the Warriors lost each of the previous three games against Phoenix this season. Klay Thompson scored 33 of his 38 points in the first half and made eight 3-pointers in the game. Stephen Curry added 23 points.
“I just think Klay has been in such a great place now for a while for several months,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “And the two early Phoenix losses, he really struggled and showed a lot of frustration. So I know it felt good for him to have that huge first half, regardless of who we were playing, but as I said, this is a division rival and a team that’s beaten us three straight.”
After a five-game losing streak that coincided with the arrival of Russell Westbrook, the Clippers have also been revived with a three-game winning streak to open a five-game homestand.
Los Angeles was able to grind out a 106-95 victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday as Kawhi Leonard scored 38 points on 14-for-22 shooting. Paul George added 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
The Clippers appear to have found their defensive identity again, holding an opponent under 100 points for the first time since Jan. 22 against the Dallas Mavericks. Los Angeles has given up an average of 97.5 points over their last two contests after allowing 131.7 in their previous six.
While the Clippers’ previous two games have not exactly been against high-scoring teams in the Knicks and Toronto Raptors, a huge test comes against the Warriors, who are second in the NBA with 118.2 points per game.
“I knew we made some (roster) changes. I knew we had acquired four new guys and it was going to take a little bit of time,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “So it’s great to see us now starting to accumulate the wins and guys being on the same page.”
Westbrook has averaged 13.3 points, 7.5 assists and 4.0 turnovers in eight games since signing with the Clippers but has shown a more measured approach as of late with averages of 7.0 points and 3.0 turnovers in 23 minutes per game over his last two.
Each team is expected to be without a productive guard. The Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins has been out since Feb. 14 for personal reasons, while the Clippers’ Norman Powell hasn’t played since a 115-91 road loss to Golden State on March 2 due to a shoulder injury.