The Mercury News
IN A GOOD PLACE
Warriors have been rather atrocious, but in this conference it might not matter
The streak is over. Eleven road losses in a row did not become 12.
Ending the streak — which lasted nearly two months — is a reason for celebration for the Dubs.
“That was gross,” Klay Thompson said of the losing streak.
But so was the Warriors' win over the Rockets.
The Warriors didn't win the game so much as the young Rockets lost it. So while picking up a road win for the first time since Jan. 30 is significant for the Dubs, the truth remains that they are far from top form.
The Warriors have nine games remaining in the regular season. Thompson pushed the idea that those contests are a “warmup” for the playoffs on Monday, but I'm not sure the Dubs can wash away the stink of the team's first 73 game in the next two-and-a-half weeks.
But here's some good news for the Warriors — a silver lining, if you will:
The rest of the Western
Conference stinks, too.
The Warriors have won eight road games all season, with the latest, No. 8, serving as an accomplishment. They're 4-6 in their last 10 games overall.
This team should be buried — relegated to the playin tournament at best. Instead, they stand as one of the Western Conference's topsix teams as of this morning.
Yes, they're playing atrocious basketball, but they are still an automatic qualifier for the real tournament, two games back of home-court advantage in the first round.
Perhaps it's no coincidence that the Warriors have never truly “turned the corner” this season, despite claiming such play was imminent several times in the last month. Why try hard when the bare minimum will do? Who is really putting a scare in the Dubs?
It's not Denver, a squad that is scuffling at the mo
ment and whom the Warriors easily dispatched in last year's playoffs.
It's not the Grizzlies, who are better at shooting their mouths than the basketball.
It's not the Clippers, who are counting on Russell Westbrook to operate in the postseason.
It's not the Mavericks, losers in five to the Dubs in last year's Western Conference Finals. They're 7-10 since trading for Kyrie Irving last month. With Luka Doncic carrying a thigh injury and Irving now wearing a walking boot, the problems are compounding for a team that hasn't jelled on offense and has become markedly worse on defense in recent weeks.
And it's not Sacramento, either — even though the Kings can make the case that they're the one Western Conference team playing good basketball at
the moment. Ultimately, the Beam Team's lack of playoff experience and bottom-five defense are dealbreakers in the postseason. (If we get an I-80 series, Warriors in six.)
I thought it might be the Phoenix Suns who would scare the Dubs, but I thought wrong.
Perhaps Phoenix will become world beaters when Kevin Durant returns from his ankle injury, but in the meantime, their bench is proving all the naysayers of the blockbuster trade correct. This team lacks depth and defense — two essential things in the postseason.
Yes, the Suns have high-end players, but they're one jammed finger away from mediocrity, and they have to trust Durant and Chris Paul to stay healthy while playing 42 minutes a night in the postseason. That's a huge ask.
We're not glossing over the Warriors' problems. No sir, that'd be ridiculous. The Dubs have provided ample reason for you to disqualify
them from championship contention.
Yet as the Warriors proved last season — you don't have to be the best team in the league; you just have to be better than the teams you play in the postseason.
The Warriors might be objectively terrible on the road. They might be lacking a reliable secondary scorer. They might not have last season's playoff ace, Andrew Wiggins. They might generally look old and stiff.
But to pick against them, you must pick someone else in the Western Conference.
Can you trust any team in the West not to beat themselves in a seven-game series against the Warriors?
No viable alternative has stepped forward. I doubt one does.
And until that changes, the Warriors can keep moseying along, looking at a corner they might never have to turn, knowing that so long as they make the real playoffs, they're the team to beat.