(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish, Presented by Mountain Dew Kickstart
by Brian Witt
The Warriors are on pace to become the best road team in NBA history.
For the week of Tuesday, Jan. 16 – Sunday, Jan. 21
Record: 4-1*(*Including MLK Day)
Last week, I said the Warriors were about to enter perhaps their toughest stretch of the season. A week later, it's safe to say, the Dubs were undaunted by that task.
It's not over yet, but Golden State's five-game road trip through some of the coldest cities in the Association is off to a tremendous start, after beginning it with three-straight wins over the Bucks, Raptors and Cavaliers in a span of four days. Those three teams are all potential Eastern Conference Semifinalists, and provide some of the toughest competition the NBA has to offer. Nonetheless, the Warriors prevailed in each of those contests, and after splitting two home games to begin the week, Golden State now sits at 36-9 on the season with a 4.5 game cushion ahead of Houston for the top spot in the West.
They've actually already suffered more losses at home this season than any other complete season in Steve Kerr's tenure as Head Coach, but they've made up for it by being far and away the premiere road team in the NBA. In fact, with their three road victories to close the week, the Dubs pushed their road record to 20-3 (.870) on the season and are now on pace to finish with the best road winning percentage in NBA history, eclipsing their own mark of 34-7 (.829) set back in the NBA-record 73-win campaign of 2015-16. Even better, the Warriors have now played more than half of their road games this year.
Obviously, the Warriors have experienced unparalleled success over the last few seasons, and their records both home and road have exemplified that. But it wasn't that long ago that Golden State struggled mightily away from the friendly confines of Oracle Arena, and a quick look back at the franchise history brings that into clear view.
The Warriors have produced winning records on the road in each of the last four seasons, and one more road victory (out of 18 remaining road games) this year will extend that number one further. However, Golden State's 20 road wins up to this point in the season are already more than they accumulated in 2012-13, the first season of the Dubs' current six-year streak of making the playoffs. In fact, the only season in which Golden State finished with a winning road record between the beginning of that playoff streak and the 18 years prior was the fan-favorite ‘We Believe' season, in which the Warriors finished with a road record of 21-20.
All of this is to say: don't take this for granted.
The Warriors would love to secure homecourt advantage throughout the upcoming playoffs. The fact that their road success could have a determining impact on that may be ironic, but it just goes to show how tough the Dubs are to beat, no matter where the game is being played.
Standout Spotlight: Kevin Durant
When it comes to quantity and quality, Kevin Durant is providing the best of both worlds right now.
He missed the win over the Nuggets to begin the week, but in the four games that followed, Durant showed once again why he's one of the most feared scorers in the history of the game.
Durant posted point totals of 40, 26, 25 and 32 points in those four games, but even more impressive than the scoring volume was his efficiency. He was an incredible 45-of-72 (.625) from the field over that span, including a blistering 15-of-25 (.600) from three-point range.
This recent surge has improved his scoring average to 26.4 points per game (sixth in NBA) and shooting percentage on the season to 51.4 percent, the best in the league of any player that attempts at least two three-pointers per game. Given that he ranks second in the NBA in total blocks (78), it's pretty safe to say (once again) that Durant is undoubtedly one of the most unique players in the history of the league. And speaking of history, Durant and a couple of his teammates are just about on pace to do something pretty special.
Throughout NBA history, there have been a total of 14 instances in which a player shot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line (minimum 55 games played), and there are several Warriors connections to those accomplishments. Steve Nash did it four times (most ever), while Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry and Durant have each done it once. This season, however, multiple Warriors have a decent chance of adding their name to the list.
On the season to date, Durant is shooting 51.4 percent from the field, 41.3 percent from three-point range and 88.6 percent from the free throw line.
Meanwhile, Curry is shooting 49.3 percent from the field, 41.4 percent from beyond the arc and 91.7 percent from the charity stripe.
And if that wasn't enough, Klay Thompson, in the midst of a career-best shooting season, is currently shooting 48.8 percent, 45.2 percent and 89.7 percent from those three respective areas.
If you're wondering if any two teammates have ever produced 50/40/90 seasons within the same year, the answer is no. And yet here we are, more than halfway through the season, with three Warriors with a viable chance to do so.
The Week Ahead:
The Warriors have put together the second-longest road winning streak in franchise history, and they have a chance to both tie and break the franchise record in the week ahead. Golden State will play just two games throughout the remainder of the week, with those being the final two games of their current road trip. First, the Dubs will travel to Chicago to face the Bulls for the second and final time this season on Wednesday, after beating them by 49 points in their first encounter back on November 24. Then, the Warriors will round out the week and road trip in Houston against the Rockets on Saturday for the third and final matchup between the teams this season. The Warriors and Rockets have split the first two games, so the winner of Saturday's contest would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker in the event of a tie in the standings. If Golden State prevails against both the Bulls and Rockets, they'll establish the longest road winning streak in franchise history at 15 games.
Till next week.