A sentiment that surely would have seemed improbable, as well as illogical, as recently as last season for the Warriors yet now seems perfectly explicable.
They actually play better on the road than they do at Oracle Arena, where they have twice as many losses. Home record: 16-6. Road record: 21-3.
And while there are several reasons behind the road success, none is more significant than the Warriors realizing the challenge is greater when they’re away from the comforts of home.
As much as they appreciate being showered with love at Oracle, they seem slightly more motivated to put on an awesome show for strangers while sending a hush though enemy territory.
There is little doubt the Warriors enjoyed Wednesday night, when they won in the building Michael Jordan built. In defeating the Chicago Bulls 119-112 at United Center, the Warriors won their 14th consecutive road game, tying a franchise mark set during their record-setting 73-win season.
A win Saturday at Houston would surpass the franchise record. With a win over the Rockets, followed by another win in their next road game, Jan. 30 at Utah, the Warriors would tie the NBA record of 16 in a row set by the Lakers in 1971-72.
They would then be in position to break the record on Feb. 2 at Sacramento.
“It’s exciting,” Klay Thompson told reporters in Chicago. “We’re not going to think about the record because you don’t want to put pressure on yourself. But that would definitely be something cool to have.”
With a goal in sight, the Warriors have a compelling reason to lock in every time they step onto the opposing team’s court. Owning the longest road win streak in NBA history is one more achievement to validate their greatness. And they definitely care about being among the greatest teams in league history.
But any team that has accomplished as much as the Warriors have over the past three seasons needs a challenge to stir the senses. They’ve won two championships. They’ve set records for most wins in a single season, most wins over a three-season span and best postseason win percentage.
That’s enough to strip away any pretense that all 82 regular-season games require their full and undivided attention. As Draymond Green conceded the other day, after a home loss, any thought that they can have the same focus and intensity for every game is “not realistic.”
That’s particularly true when the Warriors are at home. Once the most imposing arena in the league, it’s now a place where they are susceptible to lapses in concentration and ferocity. They’ve done a lot of winning at Oracle. They’re fans have seen a lot of winning at Oracle. It’s almost part of the routine.
Which opens the door to vulnerability. Aside from the opening-night loss to the Rockets, the Warriors’ home losses have come against teams to simply trying to get into the playoffs (the Pistons, the Nuggets, the Clippers) or teams just as likely to be playing golf in April (the Kings and the Hornets).
On the road, though, with the singular exception of Memphis in Week 1, the Warriors are pretty good at beating the teams they fully expected to beat. The other two losses were at Boston and Oklahoma City.
The Warriors won without Kevin Durant two weeks ago at Houston, which was without MVP candidate James Harden. When the teams meet on Saturday, Harden, should he play at all, will be on a minutes restriction, while starting forward Trevor Ariza and Sixth Man Gerald Green will be on suspension.
“It’s going to be a very tough game Saturday, probably the toughest on the trip,” Thompson said. “If we can go undefeated on this road trip, that would also be incredible. And if we could get that next road win, that would also be incredible.”
They want it. They’ll chase it, too. Not with the sheer fury they possessed throughout their 73-win season, but with utter desire to meet the challenge that comes with winning in places tougher than home.