There are games that matter, in the big picture, and games that matter mostly in the mind. The Warriors on Sunday played one that matters yet doesn't but is sure to elicit different reactions in different corners among those who care.
To their fans, it was sobering.
To their players, it was a measure of indifference.
To their owners, it was a missed opportunity.
To the coaching staff, it was a gift from above.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his assistants, particularly Alvin Gentry to Ron Adams, are always searching for flaws, for teachable moments, within a team that has been the best in the NBA. And, lately, they've needed a microscope.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Leonard, Spurs crush Warriors in San Antonio]
Well, the 107-92 thrashing administered by the defending champion Spurs at AT&T Center in San Antonio provides enough material to last at least a week and, honestly, should never been forgotten.
"We've got to learn from this," Kerr said. "We got our ass kicked. So we've got to take the game, look at the tape and get to another level."
The Warriors last month clinched the Pacific Division and nabbed the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Their victory at Dallas on Saturday assured them of having the best record in the league. So this game was about one thing only. They wanted to prove they could win in a place where they have not.
They never came close. They never led. They trailed by 15 less than eight minutes into the game, by as much as 23 in the first half and 28 in the fourth quarter.
"I reminded them that there's another level to get to," Kerr said. "It's one thing to win a lot of games and it's another thing to win against a championship team.
"We've got to play better. We have got to learn from this. It is not the worst thing in the world to happen to us. A little slap in the face like, ‘oh yeah, we can get better.’ We've got to keep improving.”
The Warriors (63-14) shot poorly when it mattered most, missing 15 of their first 21 shots and finishing at 36.4 percent in the first half. They committed costly turnovers, which the Spurs turned into points.
Most disappointing of all, the Warriors did not defend with their typical ferocity.
"I don’t think we were necessarily ourselves tonight," forward Draymond Green conceded. "You definitely have to give them a lot of credit for the way they played, but we have to move the ball better. I think we started that first quarter off with a lot of one pass and shot, (and offered) no resistance defensively. We just have to get back to doing what we do that’s made us successful this year.”
That's what the coaches will emphasize. It's not that they haven't been doing it, but this is fresh and persuasive evidence that the Warriors may not be as ready as they'd like to think.
At least not when they're staring at the Spurs on Texas soil. San Antonio (51-26) has won eight in a row and is playing its best ball while preparing to defend their title.
"This is what you expect a good playoff team to do is to make that run in the second half of the season and get as much momentum going into the playoffs," guard Stephen Curry said. "They’re on that right track, and so are we. This isn’t a step back for us at all. This is just a good learning lesson."
There can be no knowing that until the next time these teams meet. That could come in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Warriors have plenty of time to study.
Not much here, aside from Curry's shooting and Andrew Bogut's effectiveness.
Curry was 9-of-17, and 5-of-10 from deep. The last gasp came when he opened the second half with 13 points in four minutes.
Bogut: with 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 19 minutes.
The Warriors absorbed a wire-to-wire loss for the first time this season.
Harrison Barnes was absolutely torched by Kawhi Leonard. Barnes: 4 points, two rebounds, one block and zero assists in 28 minutes. Leonard: 26 points, seven steals, give rebounds, three assists in 24 minutes. It was painful to watch.
Klay Thompson finished with 6 points on 3-of-11 shooting, missing all three of his shots beyond the arc.
Green's seven rebounds (tying Bogut for team-high) and six assists (tying Curry for team-high) didn't quite offset his 2-of-11 shooting.
Curry committed four turnovers, three in the first half.
The Warriors came into San Antonio with a 12-game win streak and the high that comes with knowing they're wonderfully positioned for the postseason. There was the postgame celebration on Saturday, after Kerr set a record for wins by a rookie coach. They were not, as Kerr observed, ready to play. They were taken to school and handed exams they weren't prepared to solve. It showed.