(Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish, Presented by Mountain Dew Kickstart
By Brian Witt
The All-Star break is on the horizon, but the Warriors still have work to do before they get there.
For the week of Monday, Feb. 5 – Sunday, Feb. 11
The Warriors are ready for the All-Star break.
That much was clear to Steve Kerr following a couple losses on Golden State’s now-completed three-game road trip. The seemingly endless grind of three-straight trips to the Finals – with hopes for a fourth – is a lot to carry over a multiple-year span, and we might be seeing some of the negative side effects as of late.
Last week simply wasn't one the Dubs will be writing home about anytime soon.
They opened the road trip with a substandard performance that resulted in a 30-point loss to the Jazz. After bouncing back with a sloppy-but-sharpshooting victory in Sacramento, the Dubs closed out the week with a loss in Denver the following night, which Golden State led by as many as 12 points in the second half.
So, yes, perhaps some mental fatigue is setting in. The Warriors are human, after all. But, Kerr's message to the team moving forward: Fight through it. The respite is on the horizon.
"Our guys are dying to get to the All-Star break," said Kerr following the win over the Kings. "We're limping to the finish line at the All-Star break. We've got to fight through to the break and then we need to get the hell away from each other and go sit on a beach and relax and we'll be in great shape."
That's right. Exactly five regular season games remain between the Warriors and the All-Star break. By the end of this week, that number will be down to two, and then beach time will be so close, the Dubs will be able to smell the saltwater. Until then, though, there's some work to be done.
While they've been known for their offensive firepower, and deservedly so, the fact remains that the Warriors have finished in the top-five in defensive rating in each of the last four seasons. They're currently sixth in that category, allowing an average of 103.8 points per 100 possessions on the season to date, but that number isn't reflective of their defensive performance as of late. In fact, since December 30th, the Warriors have posted the fifth-worst defensive rating in the league, allowing 109.9 points per 100 possessions.
Much of the damage has come from long distance, as the Dubs rank second-worst in opponent three-point percentage over that span. After ranking in the top-five in opponents' three-point percentage in each of Kerr's first three seasons as Head Coach, Golden State currently sits in the middle of the pack in that category at 36.5 percent.
So, how might the Warriors turn things around? Improved defense would be a great place to start, but let's not lose our heads. They've lost two of three games, and yet still have only 12 losses on the season. They still have the NBA's best record, the highest marks in NBA history for effective field goal percentage (57.8 percent) and offensive efficiency (113.3 points scored per 100 possessions), and a favorable home-heavy schedule the rest of the way that includes only one remaining road trip of more than two games in length.
Standout Spotlight: Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee
When you're playing with four All-Stars, you might get overlooked from time to time. Well, here's an attempt to rectify that.
With Jordan Bell still out due to an ankle injury and David West missing the final two games of the road trip, the Warriors' normally bountiful stable of big men was suddenly withered severely. While the Dubs didn't have the week they wanted, the centers that did remain on the active roster did their best to ensure they would.
For starters, Zaza Pachulia was his steady, productive self. He posted averages of 9.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game for the week, and converted more than half of his attempts in each contest.
Often subbing in for Pachulia was JaVale McGee, who put forth quite possibly his best three-game stretch of the season. He opened the week with a nearly-perfect shooting night on his way to 14 points against the Jazz, and then collected six blocks over the next two games, including a season-high four swats against the Nuggets.
And it would be remiss to leave out Kevon Looney, whose toughness was on full display after suffering a broken tooth in Denver. The good news? Apparently the procedure to fix the tooth went well.
"The dentist did a great job," Kerr said following Monday's practice. "He looks as handsome as ever."
The bad news? The tooth interfered with Looney's ability to enjoy that rather important football game played on Sunday.
"I couldn't eat the wings the way I wanted to," Looney said. "So I was a little upset."
The Week Ahead:
The Warriors are hoping some home cooking serves them well in the week ahead, as they begin a four-game homestand on Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They'll then round out the week with matchups against the Mavericks and Spurs, with a day between each game. The Thunder beat Golden State in their only prior encounter this year, the Dubs squeaked past the Mavericks by three points last month and the Spurs are never to be taken lightly. It'll help to be back at the friendly confines of Oracle Arena, but Golden State should have their hands full in the week ahead.
Till next week.