The Florida road trip, against the Heat and Magic, is equally as tough as the the Texas trip against the Spurs and Mavs.
The Warriors losses to the Heat and Magic were similar. The Warriors moved the ball on offense, specifically with Monta Ellis penetrating the lane then kicking to open three point shooters. They didn't have David Lee to work any inside game and the Warriors couldn't get to the rim when Dwight Howard was in the game. Still, they found ways to manufacture points by forcing turnovers and getting solid bench production.
Brandon Wright played his best game of the year as he scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds in 19 minutes. Hopefully the playing time will give B-Wright more confidence when Keith Smart needs him. Ekpe Udoh played better than the six points and four rebounds in the box score. He is a clever shot challenger on defense, as he doesn't commit many fouls. Udoh is also patient on offense. He can hit that 15 foot jumper and his pet shot is a baby hook inside.
In the second quarter, Monta Ellis sat for the first nine minutes and Reggie Williams produced seven points while the W's MVP rested.
The third quarter was a repeat of the Heat game Jan. 1. The Magic scored the first nine points of the half and grabbed momentum, as they hit 8-10 from three to start the half. The three's started falling for the Magic and the Warriors looked a bit demoralized. They couldn't seem to find the energy to chase three point shooters off the line and they weren't sharp executing the offense.
The Warriors need to find a way to work through the pattern of not knowing where to go when the perimeter looks don't fall. The three point shooting can disappear as quickly as it comes. They must find a way to run some plays through Monta, D-Lee, or D-Wright to force the refs to call fouls. When the shots aren't falling for good NBA teams, they force their way to the free throw line and stay in the game that way.Free throws also stop teams from ripping off big runs by slowing the pace of the game. The Warriors get to passive when they shoot well, but that's who they are. The three ball is their ticket to win.
The Magic, like the Warriors, need to hit three's to win. They count on teams doubling Dwight Howard, who kicks it out, then the ball rotates around the perimeter until it finds the most open shooter. It will be interesting to see how Eastern conference teams decide to play Howard. Will they live with him pushing his way around inside and stay home on perimeter shooters, or will they double more and risk leaving people open?
Eastern conference at a glance
The Celtics have played the best basketball so far, but health could be a problem down the stretch. Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett are the two players they cannot be without in the playoffs. The Magic, like the Mavs, are a better regular season team than a playoff team. They have too many liabilities on defense to win the East, let alone win a championship. Barring an injury to one of the "big 3", the Heat should be the team to come out of the East this year. They play defense, they can get to the line and make free throws, they run the floor...they can play grind out or shoot out. They will only build more chemistry as April approaches.
The Warriors went 1-3 for this road trip, but competed well. The loss to the Hawks was close the whole way and they gave both the Heat and Magic a first half scare. D-Wright is blossoming into a trusty offensive option and the bench is giving the Warriors more production. The Warriors should get Andris Biedrins back soon and get 10 out of 13 games at home in January. If the Warriors are going to get it together and make a push, this is the month it will happen.