The Warriors returning from their five-game Eastern Conference road trip 1-4 was hardly surprising. But how it all came down — blowout losses at Milwaukee and Chicago, a late stumble at New York, the bummer in Washington and then the head-scratching win at Detroit in the finale — was quite strange, to say the least.
Some quick impressions on the Warriors and the trip:
» With the Warriors finally healthy, here’s hoping that coach Don Nelson has every player on a short leash. Every single player. The Warriors don’t have time to let players labor through bad stretches. If Jason Richardson is struggling, get him out. If Matt Barnes doesn’t provide an immediate spark, go to the next guy. If Mickael Pietrus has a lapse or two, see you later.
Forget about the playoffs, this is about getting the Warriors to play at a higher level for the last 20 games.
» A lot hasbeen made about injuries and how they have sabotaged the season. Tell you what — you’re allowed to blame a non-playoff season on injuries if the Warriors stay healthy over the final 20, go
14-6 over that time and still miss the playoffs.
» Disconcerting: Watching Richardson go 0-for-6 from the foul line against New York and Washington, then seeing him go 6-for-6 against Detroit.
» Maybe the call that Gilbert Arenas got against Mickael Pietrus late on Sunday against Washington was questionable. So what? If you watched the play, you saw that Pietrus actually fouled Arenas above the foul line when Arenas initially began his drive. That wasn’t called.
Then, Pietrus put himself in another bad spot a second or two later with the clock set to expire. That one the officials called.
It was the technical foul on Nelson that was unacceptable. People talk about players having a feel for the game. Officials need to have a feel, too. You don’t call a "T" on Nelson there under virtually any circumstance. Period.
» Monta Ellis did a nice job of running the point with Baron Davis injured. And it seems obvious that Ellis will be the key moving forward to lessening Davis’ minutes (this year and in years to come).
Where Ellis is virtually unstoppable is when he catches the ball off penetration, with a defender running at him. There is no better Warrior at getting into a seam and either hitting a mid-range jumper or getting to the rim. Not even close.
» The Warriors are not a great defensive team, but we saw in Detroit that they are capable of playing good defense. And it starts with their backcourt. Davis, Ellis and Stephen Jackson have the ability to set a tone on the perimeter that can at least mask (to some degree) the team’s substantial interior deficiencies.
» The victory against the Pistons doesn’t change the fact that the Warriors are a long shot tomake the playoffs. But at the very least, it makes tonight’s game against Denver and Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers more interesting.
Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.