(Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish
by Brian Witt
The Warriors have accomplished a lot in recent years, but they've never had a road trip like that.
For the week of Monday, Nov. Dec. 11 – Sunday, Dec. 17
Last week, I highlighted the Warriors' propensity to do something spectacular nearly every time they stepped on the court. Their performance over the last seven days has done nothing but embolden that claim.
The Warriors have accomplished a lot over the last several seasons, but at no point within that timeframe – nor the franchise's entire existence, actually – had they gone undefeated on a road trip of six games or more. Mind you, that's in no way a criticism. The feat had only been accomplished a grand total of 10 times in the history of the league, and only once in the last decade. But Golden State became the 11th team in NBA history to add their name to that list after finishing off the final three games of their season-long trip with wins in New Orleans, Charlotte and Detroit last week.
Winning six games in a row in the NBA is a tall task regardless of the team and opponents involved. To do so entirely on the road is upping the degree of difficulty a significant notch.
So, yes, it's quite a feat when viewed simply on the surface. But the surrounding context makes it all the more impressive.
Over the course of the six-game trip, Andre Iguodala, Patrick McCaw and Zaza Pachulia all missed two games apiece. Draymond Green missed one. Kevin Durant got ejected from two games, while Shaun Livingston got ejected from one and suspended for the next. And to top it all off, Stephen Curry injured his ankle in the closing minutes of Golden State's victory in New Orleans, missed the final two games of the trip and won't be reevaluated for another nine days.
That is a huge portion of the Warriors' main rotation that was in and out of the lineup throughout the trip, and yet, the cumulative statistics reveal there was no actual drop-off in production despite Golden State being shorthanded.
Over the course of the trip, the Warriors averaged 113.6 points per 100 possessions on offense, while limiting their opponents to 100.7 points per 100 possessions on the other end of the court. Compare that to Golden State's cumulative season-long offensive and defensive ratings of 113.8 and 101.0 – which rank first and third in the NBA, respectively – and the Dubs were actually more dominant over the course of the trip than they have been on the season to date. The net rating is just a hair better, but it points to the resilience of the Warriors to be able to produce like that with so many main contributors missing from the lineup.
Steve Kerr, to no one's surprise, was quite pleased with the outcome:
"Just a great finish to just an amazing trip, 6-0," said Kerr following the win in Detroit. "The last two games without Steph (Curry), obviously, tonight against a team that's given us some problems and beat us a few weeks ago, so thrilled with the effort and now we get to go home and we're all very happy about that."
It's true. The Warriors' reward for the most successful road trip in franchise history is a prolonged, home-friendly schedule that won't force them to leave California until the New Year. They'll play nine of their next 10 games at the friendly confines of Oracle Arena, with the sole road game taking place in Los Angeles.
Home for the holidays, indeed.
Standout Spotlight: Kevin Durant
There aren't many ironclad rules for the Dish, but here's one: if you get named Player of the Week by the league, you get the slightly less renowned Standout Spotlight, too.
Kevin Durant, come on down.
There's only a handful of players in the world that could shoulder the load and fill the void created by Curry's absence, and while Durant would be the first to say he didn't do it alone, there's no doubt he stepped up when called upon.
For the week, Durant posted averages of 30.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. But his performance in the final two games of the week and trip were particularly indicative of his value to the team.
In those two games without Curry, Durant posted his two highest scoring outputs of the season and totaled a combined 71 points, 21 rebounds, 17 assists, seven blocks, six three-pointers, three steals, one triple-double and a partridge in a pear tree.
When asked if he'd noticed any changes in Durant's playing style in Curry's absence, David West said that's just Durant being Durant.
"He hasn't done anything differently," said West following the victory over the Pistons. "He's probably playing a couple more minutes than he's used to, but he hasn't done anything differently. He's still aggressive. We try not to just give him the ball and stand and watch. Trying to make sure guys go and know where to be. There are times where we have to depend on him heavily like we did tonight."
Oh, what a luxury to have.
It was the first Player of the Week honor of the season for Durant and the Warriors, and the 26th overall weekly recognition of his career. If he keeps this up, there will be plenty of opportunities for more.
The Week Ahead:
The Warriors have played 16 road games and have won 13 of them. Both of those numbers are the most in the league. The schedule is about to even out in a big way, though, as the Dubs will play only one single road game between now and January 3rd. Not only that, but Golden State will play just two games total in the 10-day span between the victory in Detroit and that next road contest, both of which take place in the week ahead. First, the Warriors return to Oracle Arena tonight for their first matchup of the season with the Portland Trail Blazers, whom Golden State swept in the first round of last year's playoffs. Then, the Dubs will close out the short week with another home game on Thursday against the visiting Dallas Mavericks. You can't take any games for granted in the NBA, but the friendly schedule comes at a great time for the Warriors, who could use a little time to recuperate.
Till next week.