HOUSTON — For the better part of the last month, the Warriors have tried to stay above water.
Since the NBA All-Star break, Golden State is just 5-5 and yet to win consecutive games. The defending champs have battled through injuries, complacency and the integration of mercurial All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.
Now, on the latest episode of “As the Warriors Turn,” the team again will try to capture the rhythm that's eluded them in the hostile, but historically comforting confines of Oklahoma City in Saturday night's matchup against the Thunder.
"That's the goal," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said following Friday's practice at the University of Houston. "We've talked about it as a team many times so hopefully, on this trip, we'll get to that point. So, it's a matter of staying on them about details and them staying engaged in practice and in film sessions, and then us bringing the necessary energy every night."
The Warriors' troubles with complacency this season have been well-documented, but a closer look at the schedule shows a team more willing to lay an egg at home. Of the team's 10 losses at Oracle Arena, the Warriors have lost in blowouts to the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors. They even lost to the Phoenix Suns, who own the worst record in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, the Warriors have won in Philadelphia, Boston, Milwaukee, Portland and Indiana. Their most recent win, Wednesday's 106-104 conquest over the Rockets without Kevin Durant, ended Houston's nine-game winning streak, and set an early tone for their current four-game trip.
"I think we just have a different level of focus," Draymond Green said. "We know what it takes to win on the road. Sometimes at home we kind of just relax and think, 'oh we're gonna win'. On the road, you know what it takes to win and we've been able to play with the type of intensity."
For most teams, Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena has been a house of horrors. Over the last three years, the Thunder has won nearly 70 percent of their games at home. However, since 2016, Golden State has lost just once in the last four matchups in OKC.
Last season, while in the midst of a 7-10 regular-season finish, the Warriors, without Stephen Curry, beat the Thunder on the road behind 34 points and 10 rebounds from Durant.
"I think our guys enjoy tough environments on the road," Kerr said. "We tend to do better when people question us and even when we question ourselves."
Still, this year's iteration of the Thunder presents a stiffer challenge than the one the Warriors overcame 11 months ago.
While guard Russell Westbrook is putting up his usual numbers, forward Paul George is playing like an MVP candidate. George has averaged 28.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 65 games this season. Add in a solid frontcourt of Steven Adams and Jerami Grant, and the Thunder has the looks of a formidable opponent for the Warriors in the postseason.
"They have a great team," Kerr said. "Paul George has had a tremendous season and Steven Adams has always been very effective against us. It's a tough place to play and a hell of a team."
Fortunately for the Warriors, things seem to be coming into place in time for Saturday night.
Durant, who injured his ankle Sunday, went through a full practice Friday in Houston. Cousins, still finding his way following his return from a torn Achilles, just had his best game as a Warrior on Wednesday. He finished the night with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Now, with a chance to finally find consistency for their final 15 games, the Warriors need to show one attribute Saturday night that's alluded them up to this point.
"Focus," Green said. "If we go into this game locked in, which I have no doubt we will, we'll give ourselves a good chance to win."