Inside the Paint: How impressive was the Warriors’ road trip?
The Warriors went 6-1 on their road trip with impressive wins at Cleveland, Miami and Atlanta. (USATSI)
Programming note: Celtics-Warriors coverage tips off Friday at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territorial restrictions apply)
Failing to enter a page of NBA history, the Warriors returned to the Bay Area only slightly more impressive than when they left on Dec. 28. Though they rose in the standings, for all the significance that has in January, they are not appreciably better.
Yes, they are a tight group, which we already knew. Yes, they are good -- at times dazzlingly good -- which we already knew. No, they are not "elite" or a serious contender.
And while the Warriors nobly insist that is their abiding mission, they simply cannot meet it unless something is done about their usually hideous bench and those persistent and ghastly turnovers.
Asked if there were lessons in the 101-98 loss at Brooklyn that ended what had been a perfect (6-0) road trip and snapped his club's 10-game win streak, Warriors coach Mark Jackson responded with at least a veneer of candor.
[RECAP: Nets 101, Warriors 98]
"We know who we are as a basketball team. We know when we play great and what we've done to put ourselves in position to win," he said. "And we know when we make mistakes and are careless. So we don't learn from it. We just get better."
Meanwhile, Jackson coaches a quality squad, highly entertaining, but often as maddening as it is marvelous.
The roster deficiency falls under the department run by the ingenuity of general manager Bob Myers and checkbook of co-owner Joe Lacob, and we know they are power-shopping the market. The turnover issue sits heavy in Jackson's lap, and his answers thus far have been futile.
The Dubs have lost 14 games this season, and most can be traced back to the weak bench or the painful turnovers -- or both, as was the case Wednesday night in a 101-98 loss to Brooklyn.
They committed 18 turnovers, including seven by Steph himself, and they served to obscure and offset the remarkable work they otherwise put forth.
The Warriors left town averaging about 17 turnovers a game, worse that all but one other team, and they maintained that figure during their seven-game trek. They won despite their turnovers, a formula that will prove exponentially more difficult in Western Conference competition.
As for the boys on the bench, they blowtorched a double-digit lead in the time it took Stephen Curry to wipe the sweat from his brow. This sort of thing happens because Warriors reserves have the lowest scoring average in the league (22.9) and the lowest shooting percentage (38.7).
When the Warriors get nothing from their bench and give away 22 points off turnovers, they can lose to a past-its-prime Eastern Conference pretender. In this instance, the Dubs also deprived themselves of being the first NBA team to ace all seven games of a road trip.
"We will not lose sight of the fact that we were 6-1 on the road trip," Jackson said, adding that the "history that we're chasing after is better" than a perfect seven-game road trip.
Consider this trip, and its biting conclusion, a telling reminder of the growth needed to reach that kind of history.
THE GOOD: David Lee played well against the Nets and was the team's best player throughout the road trip. He covered up as many holes on offense as Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala did on defense.
THE BAD: To reiterate, the stunning propensity for turnovers and the paltry production off the bench.
THE TAKE: Winning six of seven on an NBA road trip qualifies as a success regardless of opponents. The Warriors took care of business in a way that revealed their assets, particularly their offensive explosiveness and their defensive ceiling. In the loss to the Nets, and even while beating the Eastern Conference dregs, the Dubs also exposed their vulnerabilities. The final game, and the entire trip, spotlighted what's necessary to take the next step. And that step is within their reach.