HANG TIME WEST – Through the injuries and the turnovers and the lack of depth the first two months, Mark Jackson offered sound logic in response to the growing concern around his Warriors. He insisted they would be fine. He predicted it would be like this.
Not necessarily the part about how Golden State would make South Beach its own, as the Warriors did Thursday night. If owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are so insistent on a waterfront arena in an international city, Jackson wasn’t figuring that Miami may be the way to go instead of San Francisco.
But a lot of other Jackson claims about the direction of his team: Splash, brother.
While it’s still early, while concerns remain, the Warriors are exactly where they should be; tied with Houston for fifth place in the West, a game behind the Clippers for fourth in the conference, and first in the Pacific Division. That would have been a reasonable guess under good circumstances. To be there while dodging potholes is an accomplishment.
The warning signs are still there – challenging for the league lead in most turnovers, the inability to replace Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry on the bench, the struggles to beat playoff-level opponents (one predicament that recently has waned). As good as the Warriors have been in the past couple weeks, they are on pace to improve by just four games, not the jump expected considering the 2012-13 squad managed just 47-35 while relying heavily on three rookies and fighting through long-term injuries to two members of the projected rotation.
But 21-13 is good, all things considered. They are 16-3 with Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala in the lineup (a strained left hamstring kept Iguodala out 12 games alone). The defense remains a strength, no matter how much Curry’s scoring and the Golden State years-old reputation dominate the image. And now there is the encouragement of the last two weeks.
It’s not just that the Warriors have won seven in a row. The real value is that they have gone from a series of losses to elite teams to several quality wins within the streak.
They beat the Clippers after trailing by 13 points. Beat the Suns by 29. They gave up 35 points in the first quarter Sunday at Cleveland and needed overtime to beat the Cavaliers — hardly a night that felt like forward progress — but responded by holding Orlando to 81 points (winning by 13) and followed that with a 123-114 victory at Miami on Thursday.
Almost a year earlier – Dec. 12, 2013 – the Warriors’ 97-95 victory inside Miami’s American Airlines Arena was the fifth consecutive win on what became a 6-1 Eastern swing that served as something of a coming-out notice. On Jan. 2, 2014, beating the Heat on the road again was the most tangible sign of the new direction of this season.
Jackson said Dec. 21, with the Warriors at 14-13, that “We’re going to be fine” and “No sense in panicking.” Asked if he would know when it was time to panic, he replied, “I’ll let you know. But now’s not the time. If that’s the case, I think then a bunch of teams need to panic. When you think about what we’ve gone through at this stage of the season and not playing our best basketball, we’re just fine.”
Golden State, he reasoned, had not come close to a good run. Injuries had been a factor, and others in the West were dealing with larger health concerns. Besides, as of that night, the schedule would soon turn to where the Warriors would have more games left against the East than the much-tougher West.
A few hours later, the win streak started.