The defending champion Golden State Warriors (19-0) take their undefeated show on the road until Dec. 12, having started a seven-game road trip on Monday in Utah. Luke Walton's squad got off to a good start with a 106-103 win over the Jazz, but Utah provided the Warriors with the toughest competition they've seen this season.
Tougher challenges await, as some quality East Coast opponents pose a serious threat to ending the Warriors historic run. Four of the six remaining opponents on the trip have records better than .550, and this will be the furthest east the Warriors have gone since they visited Memphis.
Which team stands the best chance of ending the Warriors streak? Below is a breakdown of Golden State's road trip.
Wednesday, Dec. 2 at Charlotte (10-7): Stephen Curry returns to North Carolina where his father, Dell, a TV analyst with the Hornets, will be honored at halftime. The Hornets rank No. 7 in points per game (102.5) and have won five of their last six games. They turn the ball over less than anyone (12.1 per game) and can limit the Warriors’ transition opportunities with ball security. Charlotte is also tied for No. 4 in the league with 9.6 made threes per game, proving they can score with anyone on a given night. An upset in the Tar Heel state wouldn't be surprising.
Saturday, Dec. 5 at Toronto (11-7): After two days off, it’s five games in eight days. The Raptors take the third-fewest shots per game (81.1) but still score over a 100 points a night and win games on the defensive end. The Raptors are one of the NBA’s best defensive teams, ranking No. 5 in points allowed (96.4). Both the Warriors and Raptors average 8.8 blocks per game. On Nov. 17 at Oracle Arena, the Warriors were able to hold off the Raptors by converting seven of their eight free throws in the final minute of a tight 115-110 win. It should be very loud at the Air Canada Centre in what is expected to be another competitive contest.
Sunday, Dec. 6 at Brooklyn (4-13): Brook Lopez’s baby jumper at the end of regulation on Nov. 14 is still the closest anyone has come to beating Golden State, who held on to win 107-99 in overtime despite not playing their sharpest game. The Nets score the second fewest points in the league (95.8) and are 1-6 against western teams so far. One thing going Brooklyn’s way: it’s the second night of a back-to-back. With a win here, Golden State’s would tie the 1969-1970 New York Knicks for the best road start in NBA history (12-0). Chances are slim that the Nets pull off the upset.
Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Indiana (11-5): Can the Warriors surpass the Knicks? They will have their work cut out for the them against the Pacers, who have the No. 4 scoring defense (95.6 points per game) and are third best at forcing turnovers (17.1). This game should be interesting from the perspective of setting picks: Golden State is the best offensive team off-screen (1.07 points per possession) while the Pacers have allowed the fewest such points of any team (0.67 per possession). The last time the Warriors visited Bankers Life Fieldhouse, they lost 104-98. Frank Vogel's squad currently own the second best record in the East, and are 6-2 at home. Indiana deserves to be the favorite in this one.
Friday, Dec. 11 at Boston (10-8): This is a reunion with David Lee in shamrock green. Boston has a propensity for causing turnovers (18.4 per game), leading the NBA in that category. The Celtics are the only team in the league with more offensive spot-up points than the Warriors and rank top 10 in points per game on offense and defense. The Celtics also are No. 4 in defensive efficiency (96.6), and lead the league in steals (11.3). But it will still be very tough for anyone on Boston to contain the Splash Brothers.
Saturday Dec. 12 at Milwaukee (7-11): Golden State closes out the road trip in Milwaukee on the second leg of their second back-to-back. The Bucks allow the second most points in the east (103.3), rank No. 28 in defensive efficiency (107.3), and No. 29 in pace (94.7 possessions per game). The last game of a long trip against a struggling team could be a bit of a trap for the Warriors if they are already focused on the plane ride home.