Every year, the Golden State Warriors seem to have an “uh-oh” stretch; a road trip or a span of four to five games that acts as a distress signal to their fan base. It’s the beginning of the end, a sign that it’s time to start mulling over which seven foot European the team will take in the upcoming draft. Normally, this comes much, much earlier than the second week of February.
It’s still too early too tell if Friday’s 99-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State’s third straight defeat on its current road trip, is a portent of things to come or simply a bump in the road. But with the team’s road record now at .500 and health becoming a significant factor, it’s probably not too early to at least make sure the life rafts work.
Hyperbole aside, the Warriors could use a win Saturday when they head to Dallas. Despite a game-high 32 points from Stephen Curry, they looked out of sync from the start and saw a rally fall short. The Grizzlies, the team slotted directly ahead of Golden State in the Western Conference, looked like the same squad that handled the Dubs in two previous meetings despite its recent trade of scoring threat Rudy Gay. Marc Gasol led Memphis with 20 points while Zach Randolph pulled down 12 boards and added 16 points of his own.
One could argue the Warriors lost the game in the first half, entering the break trailing by seven. Although they held Memphis to only 36 points in the second half, the Warriors scored just 37 themselves, unable to find any consistent offensive rhythm and relying primarily on Curry and David Lee to provide sparks. The two franchise cornerstones were the only Warriors in double figures. If you’ve followed this team from opening night, you know that is not what their success is predicated upon.
Klay Thompson, normally the go-to man when Curry and Lee are out or struggling, never found his stroke and finished just four of 14 from the field, including one of four from beyond the three point arc. Memphis made sure that Thompson didn’t get the open looks he’s accustomed to and limited the Warriors’ attack as a result.
Andrew Bogut, despite playing 28 minutes, wasn’t much of a factor. He didn’t have a block and pulled down just six rebounds.
All things considered, it’s a bit remarkable that the Warriors stayed with Memphis as long as they did. But this latest result only adds to the team’s worry of facing the Grizzlies in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. With or without Rudy Gay in the fold, Memphis matches up extremely well with Golden State, able to both run and rebound with equal effectiveness. Mark Jackson had best get his team on a run strong enough to pass them or hope they drop enough to face the Clippers (a team Golden State plays well) in the opening round instead.
A date with the bearded Mavericks is next, and it’s as close to a must-win game as the Warriors have had all year. An 0-4 road trip against quality opponents is actually scarier than one against inferior competition. At least the latter can be chalked up to a fluke, or even taking the opposition too lightly. A loss in Dallas on Saturday, and Golden State might find itself with more questions than answers.