Why do the Warriors thrive more on the road than at home?

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HOUSTON – At this point, Warriors coach Steve Kerr can only
offer so many motivational speeches. He can hold only so many
in-depth film sessions.

With the Warriors winning three NBA championships in the past
four years, Kerr recognizes those tactics to improve the team’s
consistency often yield diminishing returns. Thankfully for the
Warriors (41-27), they enter Saturday’s game against the Oklahoma
City Thunder (42-27) with another source of motivation to ensure
their first winning streak since the NBA All-Star break.

This season, the Warriors have appeared motivated and effective
in collecting road victories against marquee opponents in
nationally televised games.

“Our guys enjoy the tough environments on the road,” Kerr
said following practice on Friday at the University of Houston.
“We tend to play our best when we’re threatened and people
question us, and even when we question ourselves.”

The Warriors questioned themselves following Sunday’s loss to
the Phoenix Suns, the Western Conference’s worst team. They
responded with a win on Wednesday in Houston (42-26), a team likely
bound to play the Warriors in the playoffs. The Warriors have also
collected marquee road wins earlier this season in Utah, Denver,
Milwaukee, Portland, Boston and Philadelphia.

Add it all up, and the Warriors (.22-11, .667) are tied with the
Bucks (24-12, .667) for the highest winning percentage on the road
this season. The Warriors recorded an NBA-best 11-game road winning
streak this season and have won 18 of their last 22 road games. And
they have ensured a winning road record for a franchise-best sixth
consecutive season.

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So much for the Warriors ensuring they would show their very
best at their last season at Oracle Arena. There, the Warriors have
gone 24-10 and have lost a handful of marquee games, including
Milwaukee, Portland, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City
and Houston (twice).

“We just have a different level of focus,” Green said. “We
know what it takes to win on the road. Sometimes at home, you can
kind of just relax and think, ‘We’re at home, we’re going to
win.’ On the road, you know what it takes to win. We’re able to
play with the type of focus and intensity that it takes to
win.”

The Warriors have needed that focus and intensity in Oklahoma
City.

Ever since Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors as a free agent
in 2016, former Thunder teammates and fans have greeted Durant with
contempt. Durant is technically listed as questionable for
Saturday’s game because of a right ankle contusion that kept out
of Wednesday’s game in Houston. It would not be surprising,
though, if Durant played partly to shut up the toxic reception that
awaits him.

The Warriors have gone 3-1 in those matchups in OKC, even with
some of their stars sidelined with injuries (Durant; March 20,
2017) and Curry (April 3, 2018).

“It’s a place that we know we’re threatened,” Green
said. “We know the type of levels we need to be at. We’re able
to reach those levels. Obviously going in there and feeling
threatened, we know we have to play a high level of basketball in
order to win.”

Regardless of Durant’s availability, the Warriors expect the
same environment in Oklahoma City. They remain impressed as always
with Russell Westbrook’s ability to collect a triple double by
the game. Kerr described Paul George’s season as “tremendous”
after averaging a career-high in points (28.2), rebounds (6.8) and
assists (4.2). DeMarcus Cousins impressed the Warriors with how he
matched up this week against elite centers in Denver’s Nikola
Jokic and Houston’s Clint Capela. Kerr argued “we really
[DeMarcus] against Steven Adams.”

Can the Warriors overcome those challenges? If nothing else,
Kerr senses his players will have the necessary “appropriate
fear” because of the settings around them.

“We have to stay locked in. I have no doubt we will,” Green
said. “As a competitor, you enjoy the tough atmosphere. There’s
no better feeling coming into a tough atmosphere and coming out
with a win.”

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Why do the Warriors thrive more on the road than at home?