In the context of Steve Kerr’s six-plus seasons as coach of the Warriors, the team’s immediate goal is not particularly impressive.
In the context of this substandard season, that goal is enormous.
Four victories. In succession. That’s what the Warriors will ask of themselves when they take the floor Thursday night to face the Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland.
They have not, through their first 55 games, been able to achieve such a streak. They’ve had two chances. Their first three-game win streak was snapped in a humiliating 26-point loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Feb. 28.
This is their second attempt. It follows a blowout win over the Thunder on Wednesday in Oklahoma City, and this time it comes against a much less imposing opponent and at a much more consequential point of the season.
“It’s really important,” Kerr said. “We’re in the midst of a playoff race and we’ve been searching for momentum all season long.”
Well, yes, they have. And repeatedly have failed to find it. In addition to the two three-game win streaks, the Warriors have won back-to-back games only four times since the first month of the season. They’ve had three losing streaks of at least three games.
This is completely different from what the veteran Warriors -- Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney -- were accustomed to in their five seasons under Kerr.
In the five seasons beginning with 2014-15 through 2018-19, the Warriors had 35 winning streaks of at least four games and 13 of at least seven games.
The Warriors once opened a season with the temerity to put together six consecutive four-game win streaks, which the arithmetic says comes to a total of 24 consecutive victories.
And now here they are, dreaming of four in a row.
“We haven’t won four games all year,” Green said. “So, it’s important that we continue ... at three in a row, with another one (Thursday), it’s important to play the same brand of basketball we played (Wednesday).”
That brand featured typical Curry wizardry, 42 points in 29 minutes. But, furthermore, there was abundant ball movement (39 assists) that led to torrid shooting, 54.7 percent from the field, 51.1 percent from beyond the arc and a franchise-record-tying 24 triples. The Warriors shot 73.9 percent in blasting out a 50-point third quarter.
“When we move the ball like we did tonight,” Kerr said, “then we get open looks.”
No less pertinent was the defensive pressure applied after a languid first quarter. Granted, this was a severely compromised Thunder team, without its three best players, but the Warriors used ball pressure to force 18 turnovers, off which they scored 24 points, over the final three quarters.
The Warriors never lost the double-digit lead built in the second quarter, limiting Oklahoma City to 32 percent shooting from the field.
“Early in the year, we were building a defensive reputation,” Green said. “We let go of the rope a little bit. These last few games, that’s been back. If we’re going to continue to win games -- which I think we can and we will -- that has to be a non-negotiable.”
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That elusive four-game win streak depends on it. Though the Cavaliers are superior to the version of the Thunder that met the Warriors on Wednesday, they’re still 17 games below .500 and have lost 13 of their last 19 games. Nine of those losses were by double digits.
It’s enough to have the Warriors feeling good about their chances.
“We can all feel it right now,” Kerr said. “We can all feel that something is clicking, that things are happening. It feels like this is an opportunity that is right here for us to go on a little run.”
For the Warriors with Kerr on the sideline and Curry and Green mostly healthy, four consecutive wins is considered a “little run.” This season, however, it feels like fantasy