A seven-game road trip looms as the biggest challenge to the Golden State Warriors' NBA-record start to the season.
That's exactly why they wanted Stephen Curry to be rested.
Curry looks to help the Warriors improve to 19-0 and extend their winning streak to 23 regular-season games Monday night against the Utah Jazz, though they'll have to do so without Harrison Barnes.
Golden State is outscoring opponents by an average of 16.0 points during its incredible season-opening winning streak. The Warriors' 22-game run began April 9, and is tied with the 2007-08 Houston Rockets for the third-longest streak in NBA history.
Golden State is about to undergo perhaps its toughest test yet, though it doesn't come against any particular opponent. Instead, it comes against the rigors of the first of two seven-game trips this season.
This one includes roughly 7,378 miles with around 23 hours of flight time.
With the Warriors typically winning easily, the team has taken extra precaution in giving the league's reigning MVP extra rest with this road trip looming.
Curry didn't play in the fourth quarter for the fourth straight game in Saturday's 120-101 win over Sacramento. He went 4 for 7 from the floor and tied his season low of 19 points, well below his league-leading 31.9 per game.
“I'm sure Steph doesn't like it,” interim coach Luke Walton said. “But the coaching staff and the training staff, we're thrilled to get him that rest.”
Curry averages 34.5 points in eight road games and has scored 34.3 over his last three visits to Utah. He had 32 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in the most recent Jan. 30, but that wasn't enough in a 110-100 loss – Golden State's only defeat in the last eight matchups.
Draymond Green had seven points and five boards in that loss.
Green has totaled 27 points, 22 assists and 21 rebounds with six blocks in the past two games, becoming the first Warrior since Wilt Chamberlain in 1964 to get back-to-back triple-doubles.
“He got a huge contract this summer and he came back a better player. He's playing at an All-Star level right now,” Walton said.
The Warriors might need Green, Curry and Klay Thompson to do even more with one of their fellow starters out for at least the first three games of the trip. Barnes, who missed Saturday's win with a sprained left ankle, won't be re-evaluated until next week.
Utah (8-7) is aiming for its first three-game winning streak of the season, falling short on three previous tries.
While Golden State is the league's highest scoring team at 115.8 points per game, the Jazz are among the best defensively. Their 93.2 points per game against is among the lowest in the NBA, but they give up the fewest field-goal attempts at 75.6 per contest.
Utah allowed 69 shots Saturday, winning 101-87 over New Orleans. Alec Burks chipped in with 21 points while making 9 of 14 from the floor, a tremendous improvement after he averaged 10.3 points and went 9 for 36 over the three previous games.
“The biggest thing with Alec, I keep emphasizing with him is his decisions,” coach Quin Snyder said. “When he makes high-percentage decisions, he can shoot it, he can pass it, he can handle, he can finish. It's just a question of what is the defense giving?”
The shoulder injury that ended Burks' season in December last season forced him to miss the last three meetings with Golden State.
Gordon Hayward had 26 points, a career-high 15 rebounds and six assists against the Warriors on Jan. 30. He's averaging 22.8 points and has made 9 of 17 3-pointers over the past four games.
- Alec Burks
- Draymond Green
- Golden State Warriors
- Gordon Hayward
- Harrison Barnes
- Klay Thompson
- Stephen Curry
- Utah Jazz