Coach Mark Jackson continues to maintain that if his team just gets back to “Warriors basketball” they’ll be just fine. “Warriors basketball,” according to Jackson, is about hard work, competing at the defensive end, executing on offense and not giving in.
Those things were not on display Friday night, when the Chicago Bulls laid an unexpected 115-93 pasting on the Warriors at Oracle Arena.
[RECAP: Bulls 115, Warriors 93]
It’s as good a time as any to take a breath and consider exactly where the Warriors are in their playoff quest … and what they have to do to bring it home.
That loss completed a 4-3 homestand for the Warriors, which was certainly OK, but then again, nothing great, either. They had wins over Toronto, Sacramento, New York and Detroit. But the hammering at the hands of the Bulls was worrisome, if for no other reason than when it occurred.
Now, the Warriors (37-30) head out on the road for their last multiple-game trip of the season, and they start it off in big-time fashion with a game against the Rockets on Sunday -- the same Rockets (36-30) who could leap-frog the Warriors in the standings with a victory.
Jackson gave his team the day off on Saturday, likely trying to ease the players’ bodies and minds heading into this trip.
The Warriors are not playing well. They’re 7-13 over their past 20 games and they’re 15-20 since Jan. 2. So you could make a case that they haven’t played well for more than half of their season so far.
But the Warriors did so many good things early, and some of the competition has struggled to such a degree, that they still find themselves on the inside looking out right now. They are No. 6 in the Western Conference with 15 games remaining, and that’s something virtually every Golden State fan would have taken if you had said it was possible before the season.
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But things have changed. A little over a month ago, when the Warriors peaked at 30-17, there were thoughts of securing the No. 4 seed and possible homecourt advantage in the first round. Then the focus shifted to holding onto the No. 6 spot to better assure a first-round matchup against the No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers.
The Warriors went 3-1 against the Clippers this season, and most view them as the most favorable matchup for Golden State.
The reality is this: The Warriors’ goal now should be making the playoffs somehow, some way and the position doesn’t matter anymore.
They can still do it and they should still do it. Golden State’s homestand did them more good than bad; their lead over the Lakers went from three games to two, they stayed a half-game ahead of Houston, and they gained 2 ½ games over the Utah Jazz.
What the Warriors have in their favor is a game at home against the Jazz on April 7, and should they win it they’d win the tie-breaker against them.
Golden State also has nine of their 15 remaining games at Oracle, including a five-game homestand, with four of those coming against teams with losing records.
If there is a troubling component on the way home it’s that Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee and all of the team’s rookies have never played in NBA games with the stakes this high. Curry, Thompson and Lee have never gone to the postseason, and their teams have never really been “in it” late, either.
So, this last month of the season is going to be new to a lot of players.
That said, the Warriors, despite Friday’s loss and a troubling past couple of months, are still “just fine.” They can get to the postseason for the first time since 2007 by avoiding a losing streak and winning most –- not even all –- of the games they should win as they wind down the season.