Fast Forward: Warriors hit road with newfound defensive focus

Fast Forward: Warriors hit road with newfound defensive focus
February 24, 2014, 11:45 am
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We’re learning, man. I tip my hat off to coach Jackson for being so patient with our team.
Jermaine O’Neal

Programming note: Warriors-Pistons coverage tips off today with Warriors Pregame Live at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territory restrictions apply)

The Warriors are stepping into what has been, at least this season, something of a comfort zone.

They're on the road again, for an extended period.

The Warriors on Monday open a six-game, 11-day trip in Detroit, where the Pistons are reeling. Not that the opponent matters in this instance, as the Warriors seem to unify through chartered jets and five-star hotels. Their combined record on road trips of four or more games is 10-5.

And as was the case when last they went off, they leave Oakland on a roll, having won their last three games. They've been intense on defense and smart on offense.

“We have to continue to defend at a high level,” coach Mark Jackson said. “The last three games we only had 29 turnovers; we are taking care of the basketball. When we do those things, we put ourselves in position to win ballgames.

“We're looking forward to the road and it will be a great challenge for us.”

The Warriors (34-22) will be facing a woebegone franchise and a team still trying to figure itself. The Pistons (23-33) fired coach Maurice Cheeks on Feb. 9, promoting assistant John Loyer, who becomes their 10th coach since 1999-2000.

It's a mess in Detroit, and a thin group of Warriors hopes to take advantage.

Forward David Lee (stomach flu) did not play in last Saturday's win over Brooklyn and did not make the trip to Detroit; he could join the team Wednesday in Chicago. Center Andrew Bogut (left shoulder inflammation) has missed the last seven games and is questionable for the Pistons.

Yet the Warriors have won three in a row and seem to fully grasp the effect their defense has on the outcome. After blowing several winnable games earlier this season, the collectively vowed rededication after the All-Star break.

“We’re learning, man,” veteran center Jermaine O'Neal said. “I tip my hat off to coach Jackson for being so patient with our team. Having guys in and out of the lineup, it's hard to get a team prepared. But right now he has us going and most of the all the guys on this team are really, really focused.

“We've got to continue this, though.”

The road, so far this season, has been the perfect place for that. They'd better exploit this, though, because after they return on March 6 they'll have only seven more road games, and no trip more than two games.

[WESTERN WATCH: Suns lose to Rockets, fall behind Warriors]

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bogut/O'Neal/Green vs. Drummond and Monroe. If Bogut can't go, Jackson almost has to turn to Hilton Armstrong for at least limited minutes against Detroit's rangy big men. Lee is missed here for his ability to pull Drummond out of the paint, as he did when the teams met in Oakland.

Andre Iguodala vs. Josh Smith. Iguodala can't do much about Smith's transition buckets, but he has to make him as uncomfortable as possible in halfcourt sets. J- Smoove is notoriously streaky, so it's imperative that he not start fast.

Stephen Curry vs. Brandon Jennings. Much like Smith, Jennings tends to run hot or cold, with little in between. Curry will have to stay in front of him on defense, and exploit him on offense. The latter is a much easier task.

KEYS TO THE GAME: 1) Crank up the treys, taking advantage of a Pistons team that is allergic to playing perimeter defense. 2) Limit the turnovers, as Detroit thrives on cheap baskets triggered by fast-break opportunities. 3) Block out, as this is that rare instance in which the Warriors play a team with better rebounding statistics.

INJURY UPDATE: For the Warriors, C Andrew Bogut (left shoulder inflammation) is questionable. F David Lee (stomach flu), C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) and G Nemanja Nedovic (left hamstring strain, right foot inflammation) are out indefinitely.

For the Pistons, G Chauncey Billups (left knee surgery) is out.

LAST 10: Warriors 7-3, Pistons 4-6.

SERIES HISTORY: The Warriors have won the last five meetings and are seeking a sixth straight win over the Pistons for the first time since they managed a seven-game win streak that began in 1975-76.