(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish, Presented by Mountain Dew Kickstart
By Brian Witt
With one month remaining in the regular season, the Warriors' priorities are coming into view.
For the week of Monday, Mar. 12 – Sunday, Mar. 18
Golden State got off to a strong start last week before stumbling with back-to-back losses to close it, but much like a duck on a pond, there was a lot going on underneath the surface of the Warriors' record.
There was a 25-0 run and a typically dominant Dubs' third quarter in the win over the Nets to begin the week, showcasing the supreme offensive potency Golden State can display at any given moment. Stephen Curry played a critical role in that victory, but suffered an ankle injury in the opening minutes of the game against the Spurs, a development that would have a significant impact on the team's performance throughout the rest of the week.
The Dubs still managed to beat San Antonio, thanks in large part to some clutch play from Kevin Durant down the stretch. He scored 37 points in the victory, including 12-straight for Golden State in the final minutes to complete a comeback, but Curry's absence was certainly felt. Durant would do everything in his power to supplement Curry's scoring in the final two games to close the week, but the injuries to Curry and several other players on the roster ultimately proved too much to overcome.
In addition to Curry, Andre Iguodala, David West, Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell all missed both defeats due to injury, and even Quinn Cook was questionable for Sunday's game in Minnesota with a right hand contusion, although he still ended up playing. Still, despite being immensely shorthanded, the Warriors didn't throw in the towel; in fact, they had both the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves on the ropes at certain points throughout the games.
"We are in a tough stretch and I am really proud of our guys," said Steve Kerr following the loss in Minnesota. "I thought they battled again tonight and just didn't have enough left in the tank. I am very pleased with the effort and we will get some guys back here hopefully in the next week or two. I am very confident in the way that we are heading, we are just in a little bit of a tough stretch."
The Warriors fought hard, and although they didn't get the outcomes they desired, the effort they displayed against the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves is going to serve them well come playoff time, which is right around the corner. Golden State is clearly at their best when at full strength, and while there's still plenty at stake in the Western Conference playoff race, the best thing the Warriors can do throughout the next month is maintain that effort, and most importantly, get healthy heading into the postseason.
Standout Spotlight: Kevin Durant
It can't be easy inheriting the scoring burden created by Curry's absence from the lineup, but then again, Durant is no ordinary scorer.
He came through when it mattered most in willing the Warriors to victory over San Antonio, and backed that up with two even higher point totals in Golden State's next two games to close the week.
After notching 37 points against the Spurs, Durant brought his hot hand to Portland, where he unleashed yet another dominant offensive performance in front of the Moda Center crowd. Back on February 14th, Durant dropped a season-high 50 points on the road against the Blazers in Golden State's final game before the All-Star break, and then on Friday, followed that up with a 40-point game in Rip City (on the back end of a home-road back-to-back, mind you). In doing so, Durant became the first NBA player to score 50 and 40 points in consecutive road games against the same opponent since Allen Iverson at Milwaukee in 2004, and also became the first Warrior to do so since Rick Barry at Detroit in 1967.
While he wasn't as efficient as he was in the games against the Spurs and Trail Blazers, Durant still managed to score 39 points in Sunday's defeat at the hands of the Timberwolves, in addition to securing 12 rebounds. For the week, Durant averaged 33.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4.3 three-pointers per game on 46.3 percent shooting from the field, 51.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc and 90.9 percent from the free throw line.
Oh, and he also added another 10 blocks, which now leaves him two behind Kristaps Porzingis for the second-most in the NBA this season.
The Week Ahead:
The Warriors are banged up right now, but some good news comes in the form of a relatively lighter schedule in the week ahead. Golden State will first attempt to get back on the right track when they host the Lakers on Wednesday, meaning they will have had more than three days in between games when they take the court that night. After that, the Dubs close out the week with another home-road back-to-back sequence that will have them play the Kings at Oracle Arena on Friday before traveling to Phoenix to face the Suns on Saturday. Back-to-backs are never easy, but at the very least, it's not a long flight. While none of Golden State's opponents this week are headed to the playoffs, you can be sure each and every one of them would love nothing more than to play the role of ‘spoiler', so the Warriors can't take anything for granted in the week ahead.
Till next week.