The first true crossroads moment of the season for the Warriors arrives Sunday. Only 46 hours after being crushed by the Portland Trail Blazers comes an opportunity for redemption.
A win gives the underdog Warriors (2-3) their first vanquishing of a quality opponent.
A close loss implies they are making progress.
Another lopsided loss probably drives the frustration level through the roof of Chase Center.
Both teams made substantial roster changes in 2020, with the Warriors adding three new starters and Portland (3-2) acquiring two. The Blazers’ 123-98 victory on Friday suggests they’re a lot further along.
Can the Warriors bounce back? Here are three keys to a Golden State win:
Be better in the backcourt
If this seems familiar, it’s because it is. Beating the Blazers in recent years generally requires getting the best of starting guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
The Warriors were clobbered there on Friday. Lillard and McCollum combined for 62 points, on 47.6-percent shooting from deep, 52.4 percent overall. Stephen Curry and Kelly Oubre Jr. responded with a combined 36 points, shooting 25 percent from deep and 40.1 percent overall.
That the 26-point difference in production by the opposing starting guards aligns almost perfectly with the 25-point difference in the score illustrates the importance of the matchup.
If Curry and Oubre can narrow the scoring gap, get within 10, it matters. If they can win the efficiency game, they like win on the scoreboard.
Stop the deep bleeding
The Warriors have the worst 3-point shooting defense in the league; opponents are shooting 44.7 percent from distance. Portland shot 46.5 percent there on Friday.
It’s almost impossible to win a game allowing such scorching shooting from the most devastating and deflating area of the court.
Though some of this can be blamed on opposing players getting “hot,” most of it can be traced back to porous defense. Too many clean looks, particularly early, and teams get confident and start lining up for a feast.
In the words of assistant coach Ron Adams, the Warriors need to “make them feel us.” Doing it from the start could set a tone for the rest of the game.
Pound the glass
Whether it’s a lack of size, awareness or determination – or all of the above – the Warriors have gotten manhandled on the glass in all five games this season.
Coach Steve Kerr expressed confidence after the season-opening road trip that this will change, particularly with the return of Draymond Green. Maybe he’s right.
The Warriors have been, by game, minus-10, minus-17, minus-13, minus-5 and minus-7. A modicum of progress but hardly indicative of climbing the glass with enough authority to even begin to offset their abysmal (NBA-worst 36.4/30.6 percent) shooting.
Winning comes easier if they are able to neutralize this vulnerability.