Saturday saw the Golden State Warriors stumble around the FedEx Forum, throwing the ball all over the place except into the basket. Steve Kerr benched his starters with the team down 28 points with 10 minutes to go. With Zaza Pachulia and Andre Iguodala out of the lineup, it might have been enough to make you ponder how vulnerable the Warriors will be if they suffer a minor injury or two in the playoffs.
The next night, the Warriors bounced back. Sure, the Minnesota Timberwolves hung with them and even led after three quarters, but then Golden State outscored them 38-20 in the final frame, earning a 116-108 victory with relative ease.
To anyone who has paid attention to the Warriors this year, the Grizzlies game and Sunday's blah third quarter were aberrations. The scoring explosion at the end in Minnesota? That is the norm. Last season, Golden State didn't suffer its first defeat until its 25th game. This year, it has three more losses, but it is still heads and shoulders above everybody else in the league.
Scoring leader: Kevin Durant (25.8)
Assists leader: Draymond Green (7.0)
Rebounding leader: Kevin Durant (8.4)
Last week: Defeated Pacers, Clippers, Jazz, lost to Grizzlies, defeated Timberwolves (4-1)
GAMES THIS WEEK
Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET: New Orleans Pelicans
Where: Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana
TV: NBA League Pass
Streaming: NBA League Pass
Thursday, 10:30 p.m. ET: New York Knicks
Where: Oracle Arena in Oakland, California
Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET: Portland Trail Blazers
Where: Oracle Arena in Oakland, California
TV: NBA TV
Streaming: PlayStation Vue
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
K.D.'s efficiency: Don't be alarmed, but Durant finally had a couple of somewhat subpar scoring nights. Against the Clippers, he only needed to score 16 points, and he did so on 5-for-17 shooting, with eight rebounds and seven assists. Against the Wolves, he had 22 points, but he went 6-for-21, his worst shooting night of the season, and that included missed layups and wide-open jumpers.
"It's a part of the season, man," Durant said Sunday, laughing it off, via the San Jose Mercury News' Anthony Slater. "I definitely didn't want it to happen -- I definitely would love to make more shots than I've been making on this road trip -- but it's an up-and-down season. I think it's about how you bounce back and how you keep fighting through it all."
Durant's scoring average has dropped 1.5 points since last week, and he hasn't scored more than 22 since he went for 39 in overtime in Golden State's 132-127 loss to the Houston Rockets on Dec. 1. He is shooting just 31.3 percent from 3-point range in December. None of this is anything to worry about, but it's a little weird. Don't be surprised if he breaks out of this with a monster game soon.
The battle with boredom: Golden State is at war with nouns -- last week, its biggest enemy was fatigue; this week, it's boredom. The Warriors, like most teams with the ability to score 80 points in a half out of nowhere, have a tendency to relax against lesser opponents on occasion, especially defensively. This will be a nice test for them when it comes to keeping their intensity up.
The Pelicans, Knicks and Blazers are all clearly beneath Golden State, but they all have superstars who will be amped up to challenge the super-team. Even if the the Warriors sweep them, it's worth watching whether they demolish them like they did against the Pacers and Clippers or let them hang around like the Jazz and the Timberwolves.
Young bigs getting a chance: Damian Jones made his NBA debut on Saturday and jumped around a lot. Kevon Looney made his second start of his career on Sunday, and it's funny that the other one was also against Minnesota. If you're a Golden State fan, you're deeply invested in their development and want to see more of them. It's unclear if Pachulia will miss any more time with his right wrist bruise, but if he does, it's an opportunity for Kerr to get a look at these guys.
The absence of splashes: Here's a crazy stat:
Warriors from 3 on this road trip— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 12, 2016
-Draymond Green: 12-of-20 (60 percent)
-Everyone else: 29-of-98 (29.5 percent)
Sources say Kerr's new game plan will be to set up Green for 3-pointers as often as possible, using the Splash Brothers and Durant as decoys. Or, uh, nothing will change and this is a statistical anomaly. One of the two.
BIGGEST ONE-ON-ONE MATCHUP
Green vs. Anthony Davis. Apart from being one of the top players in the league, Davis tends to give Golden State problems. Both games against the Pelicans this season have been fairly close, and both featured Green trying like hell to keep Davis out of his comfort zone. You can make the argument that nobody defends Davis quite like Green does, but sometimes all that means is that The Brow has to work harder than usual to put up huge numbers. If Green manages to keep Davis quiet, it would give his Defensive Player of the Year campaign a boost.