There’s a new set of expectations in Golden State.
Those old Warriors, the teams that have finished with lottery picks in each of the last four seasons, would usually crumble in difficult stretches.
But that was then and this is now.
The team, in Mark Jackson’s second season, is defying that old, losing narrative and continues to accomplish the unforeseen.
First it was the early 10-6 record as of Dec. 1. That was followed by a 6-1 Eastern Conference road trip that put the Warriors on the national map.
Then, after going 2-2 in California with two disappointing losses at the Sacramento Kings and an overtime home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the next tough test was a road
matchup against a Utah Jazz team that had only lost twice all season at home.
They passed that test with ease in Wednesday night’s 94-83 defensive victory.
With each new stretch, the Warriors add to their new identity. The Warriors (19-10) are off to their best start since 1991-92.
Now, the refurbished Warriors have another set of tests to once again assess the franchise’s growth from last season.
Tonight, the Warriors host the Philadelphia 76ers, a team they fell to twice last season with 26- and 22-point losses. On Saturday night they face the Boston Celtics, a team the Warriors have lost seven of eight against.
Golden State is 11-2 against the Eastern Conference this season.
The difference so far this season has been the all-star caliber play of Stephen Curry and David Lee, the young nucleus of Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green, and the superb bench play of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry.
Tonight’s key is inside
In this back-to-back set against the 76ers and the Celtics, the Warriors have the opportunity to show off their toughness.
The 76ers have missed top-level center Andrew Bynum all season long and rank 20th in the league in rebounding. The Celtics rank dead last in the league.
If the Warriors, ranked fifth in all of basketball with 45.6 rebounds per game, can play more physical in the paint, then Golden State will have an advantage.
Golden State is 17-2, including 8-0 at home, when outrebounding its opponent.
Warriors struggling against poor records
The Warriors were 13-31 last season against teams .500 and above. This season, they are 11-4.
However, the Warriors have a lower winning percentage at 8-6 against teams with a record below .500. The 76ers enter at 14-15, currently in the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are at .500 at 14-14.
The Returns of Dorell Wright and Jason Richardson
Former Warriors swingman Dorell Wright returns to Oracle tonight riding a hot shooting streak. Wright has scored 20-plus points in three of the 76ers' past five games.
Wright scored 28 points at the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. In his last five games, he is averaging 17.6 points and is shooting 48.6 percent from three-point range.
Wright has struggled overall this season and is averaging 8.7 points on 37 percent shooting from the field.
Jason Richardson, who played with the Warriors in the team’s last playoff appearance, also returns. Richardson was traded to Philadelphia from the Orlando Magic this offseason as part of the Dwight Howard trade to Los Angeles.
Richardson missed Wednesday's game in Memphis with a lower back strain. He is averaging 11.5 points in 24 games.
Quote to take into tonight
Jarrett Jack spoke in regards to the new identity of this Warriors team after Wednesday night’s win in Utah.
"There were some comments made about our basketball team, basically calling us a soft team,” Jack said. “I think tonight, and not just tonight but over the course of the season, we showed that’s not the case. That was kind of the old stigma with the Golden State Warriors, but I think this group is an ultimate bunch.
“I’m not pointing towards any altercation – that’s not being tough. Tough is being able to go on the road, withstand runs, mentally execute all of your plays and tune out this noisy crowd that always keep them in games, and still come in here and execute and be successful."
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