Can Golden State Stop Being Road Worriers?
12:07 PM EST on December 29, 2022
The Golden State Warriors don't travel well, but unlike the rest of us this holiday season, it isn't because they're stuck in airports thinking murderous thoughts and trying to figure out what percentage of their luggage arrives in Sri Lanka as opposed to Sweden—while they're just trying to get from Seattle to Salt Lake City.
They spent most of last night chasing the Utah Jazz around the Chase Center floor with minimal success, only to remember in the last five minutes that they are playing at home and do not lose there. So they didn't, winning 112-107 behind the work of … well, behind the work of playing at home.
The only thing anyone can count on with this team is that they always win at home, and because they are 18-18, that means they never win on the road. You can yap about them as granularly as you wish—when is Stephen Curry coming back as opposed to what is Jonathan Kuminga's ceiling as opposed to when did Steve Kerr start looking like Tim Holt in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre—but this is the one thing you can count on no matter what: They are magnificent at home and suck molten lead on the road.
They are currently 15-2 at home, which pencils out to 36-5 if you lack the patience to live until mid-April. They are currently three games into an eight-game homestand that started with Memphis, ends with Phoenix, and is aggressively blah in the middle, so we can assume for purposes of today's timewaster that they will be 19-3 at worst by the time they have to leave again. They'll make people think they're just swell again.
But they do have to leave again, and that's how this all gets weird. They are 3-16 on the road, which paces them out to be 6-35 en route to 42-40 and a spot near the bottom end of the play-in tournament. That projected 30-game difference between their home and road records would be the most in NBA history, unless it isn't, but it's too early in the morning to go researching that kind of slop. But at some point it becomes clear that teams that play .878 ball at home are typically very good, and those that play .146 ball on the road tend to stink to high heaven. Nobody ever does this simultaneously.
Indeed, the closest we could find was the 1990–91 Sacramento Kings, who went 24-17 at home but struggled a bit more on the road, going 1-40. Comrade Redford wasn't even born when this happened, and Light The Beam was actually Who's Got A Match?
Those Kings finished 25-57, and the only team with a worse record was Denver, which allowed 130 points per game—by design. But their home/road split was only modestly ghastly when compared to how the Warriors are going. And truth is, we want them to keep going this way. They have spent way too much time talking about the glory years, way too little time talking about the first two post-Durant years when they had no healthy beings, and should have to know the full extent of what this kind of season will provide.
Draymond Green pinned this spasmodic season on mental fragility before the Memphis win: "Right now, I think we are very fragile. You start going through these things and then you start believing them. Once you start believing them, it becomes who you are. The only way to break them is by being mentally tough. It's not something that's going to be fixed with the snap of a finger. You've got to work through these issues to get that confidence. It's just not showing up. As much as you'd like to think, 'Oh, we'll be fine and this guy will come back...' No, no, no. You've got to work for positive outcomes, positive feelings, that ultimately give you that boost of confidence."
Yeah, well maybe that's how it plays out, but I think we'd all prefer the kind of season where location-location-location is the only valid way to view this team. They would be that rarest of creatures, the fascinating and easy-to-bet play-in team. And who couldn't use a few easy paydays after a year like this? My kid's bail money isn't going to make itself, after all.