Why Golden State Warriors fans shouldn’t panic after slow start
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When you’re the defending champions – let alone a team like the Golden State Warriors that has won 84.1% of its games in the past three regular seasons – there’s always a silver lining in late October.
And so it goes for this ‘Super Villains’ squad, even if a Sunday night loss to the Detroit Pistons at Oracle Arena dropped them to 4-3 while also marking a second home loss (that’s no small deal, by the way, considering they had just two regular season home losses in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and five in 2016-17). But even with all these fascinating foibles, from the turnover problem (third-most in the NBA at 18.4 per game) to the awful defense (26th in defensive rating) and beyond, here are a few reasons why the Warriors and their fans need not panic.
THE CAVS ARE WORSE
When the same two teams have faced off three consecutive times in the Finals, it’s fair to judge everything through that prism. As such, it has to make coach Steve Kerr & Co. feel a little better that Cleveland not only has a worse record (3-4), but the inferior defense (27th at 109.8 points allowed per 100 possessions; the Warriors are allowing 108.4).
THEY’RE FLIPPING THE SCRIPT
The last time the Warriors were defending a title, they won 29 of their first 30 games en route to a historic 73-win campaign that, in the end, was all for nothing. Those Cavs made the unprecedented recovery from a 3-1 Finals deficit to win it all, and no one much cared anymore that Golden State had run roughshod over its foes during the regular season. For those wondering, however, the Warriors’ third loss in that season came in the 39th game.
THE CARE FACTOR
This is a fiery group, but the combination of the shortened preseason and the Warriors’ China trip that complicated it has left this team looking listless. Assistant coaches routinely cite the early lack of rhythm that, as they see it, is the byproduct of reduced practice time and bouts with jet lag. Conditioning has been a problem too, not to mention the age-old reality that lack of early motivation is often a factor for reigning champs.
Still, history paints a passionate picture when it comes to these Warriors. And while late comebacks against Toronto and Washington in their prior two games were fueled by that quality, they should finally realize now that it’s not something you can put off until the last few minutes.
“That’s what I’m talking about in terms of the care factor,” Kerr explained to reporters after the latest loss. “We finally started caring with six minutes left when we were threatened. We immediately cut it to three because we cared, but the right team won.
“Karma was in the right place tonight. … They outplayed us, they outhustled us. We didn’t deserve to win that game just by showing up in the last six minutes, so the right thing happened.”
THE CLIPPERS ALWAYS WAKE THEM UP
Even without Chris Paul, the sight of the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Monday night should be more than enough to wake the Warriors from this slumber.
Golden State has won 10 consecutive games (and 18 of the last 23) against the team that once considered itself worthy rivals, with the last Clippers win coming on Christmas Day in 2014. Truth be told, Paul never would have headed for the Houston Rockets over the summer if these Warriors wouldn’t have turned the tide in this matchup and played their way atop the NBA.
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Yet now, with five-time All-Star Blake Griffin having re-signed on a five-year, $173 million deal and newcomers like point guard Pat Beverley and small forward Danilo Gallinari aiding the effort, the Clippers (4-1) still pose an interesting threat. Their lone loss came against the same upstart Pistons team that took down the Warriors, with wins against the Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers coming before.
The clash of styles should be compelling, as it’s the Warriors’ league-leading offense (115.6 points per 100) against the league’s early leaders in defensive rating (the Clippers, with big man DeAndre Jordan anchoring the action down low, are allowing just 92.8 points per 100 possessions, while the second-place Boston Celtics are at 95.1).
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick on Twitter @Sam_Amick