Never in the darkest corners of their minds could the Warriors have imagined, even with a back-to-back set, going 0-for-Florida. They might lose one of the two games, but certainly not both.
That would explain the sleepy start at Miami and the ineffective start at Orlando. Did the champs take the floor expecting routine victories over a pair of sub-.500 teams from the soft midsection of the Eastern Conference?
The Warriors fought back for fourth-quarter leads in both games but gave back a four-point lead over the final 20 seconds against the Heat and a five-point lead over the final three minutes against the Magic. There’s your 0-2 start to a four-game trip.
Here are some of the positives and negatives taken from the annual trip to Florida:
The Boogie Issue
The Warriors were prepared to live with the ups and downs that would come with the presence of DeMarcus Cousins and assimilating him into the roster. They could have used his offense in Miami, where he rested. They could have used his defense in Orlando, where he did play. Team defense continues to suffer when Boogie is on the floor, and it’s not just pick-and-roll vulnerability. He’s a step slow, leading to easy buckets for the opponent. Orlando, averaging a league-low 42.4 paint points per game, had 30 in the first half and 52 for the game. Layup line, anyone?
Cousins is not a rim protector (career average: 1.2 blocks per game), so the Warriors must walk a fine line between what he gives on one end and gives back on the other.
Would alarm clocks help?
Four days after falling behind 15-0 to the Rockets without James Harden, the Warriors trailed by 10 in the first quarter and 24 in the second at Miami. One night later, they were behind, by as much as 11, the entire first half against the Magic. The general effort was better at Orlando, but the first-half defense was lacking in both games. Miami shot 63.2 percent in the first half, Orlando checked in at 57.9 percent. No doubt assistant coach Ron Adams was throwing internal tantrums.
The Warriors sometimes snatch victory with a few minutes of spectacular defense – see the third quarter at Orlando – but giving a mediocre team room to find rhythm and confidence is asking to get burned.
Jordan Bell makes an impact
Somewhere behind the myriad issues that plagued them in Florida, the Warriors discovered a glimmer of hope from the far end of the bench, with Jordan Bell digging his way out of purgatory and back into rotation worthiness. Bell played 32 minutes over two games, totaling 16 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block. He was plus-3 at Miami, plus-6 at Orlando.
Bell is unique among Warriors insofar as he’s clearly the best athlete among the “big men.” When he is engaged and productive, though, it’s much easier to tolerate his mistakes.
Too much glue?
The Warriors lead in the NBA in assists, averaging 29.2 per game, topping 30 in 27 games and recording 16 in one quarter three weeks ago. They totaled season-low 16 at Orlando after registering 21 in Miami. The ball was sticking to too many hands. There was too much one-on-one offense, players pounding the rock and dribbling into shots, signs of impatience in trying to get back into games. Disrupting offense is a Heat specialty, but the Magic also made the Warriors uncomfortable, leading to a bit of desperation.
They endured a similar dip in assists in November. Curry was out. Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were on the outs. They lost four in a row. Do they see the pattern?