PORTLAND – For what it’s worth, and surely not much at the moment, the Warriors have now been victimized by precisely the kind of shellacking the 1995-96 Bulls took during their historic 72-10 season.
The Warriors, who happen to be chasing those Bulls and that record, swallowed a 32-point defeat Friday night, on the road – just as those Bulls did on March 10, 1996.
The Bulls recovered from that loss to the Knicks in New York to win their next six games and 12 of their next 13.
The Warriors, after a 137-105 pasting by the Trail Blazers at Moda Center, would welcome such a marvelous recovery, for it would mean that this was a bump in the road and not some ambitious young team discovering a weakness that may be exploited by others.
“Got to give them a lot of credit for the way they played,” center Andrew Bogut said. “They kicked our ass tonight.”
[RECAP: Instant Replay: Warriors pounded in Portland by Lillard, Blazers]
Stephen Curry during a timeout tried to rally his teammates in a horrific third quarter in which the Warriors committed 13 turnovers. Repeat: 13 turnovers. In one quarter. He urged everyone to “reward our hard work” by taking care of the ball and valuing possessions.
“We didn’t do it,” he said. “So we deserved to lose tonight.”
The Warriors deserved this simply if only for that ghastly third quarter. They were within six (77-71) with 8:08 left in the quarter. They were down 22 (97-75) five minutes later and 27 (102-75) less than a minute after that.
The defending champions, riding an 11-game win streak, fell apart like a thrift-shop suit under the assault of Damian Lillard (51 points, 11 in the third) and his voracious teammates.
“Their backcourt is like our backcourt,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, referring to C.J. McCollum (21 points) and Lillard. “They can just explode. So I’m OK with the other team making shots.
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“What I’m not OK with is losing our poise in the third quarter and making 13 turnovers in one quarter. If we’re down 15, we can score 15 points in two minutes. But we tried to score 15 points in one possession, over and over again.
“They kicked our butts. They deserved everything. But we should’ve put up a better fight in the third quarter just with our approach.”
After wiping out most of a 19-point deficit in the second quarter, when they cut the margin as low as four, the Warriors never really looked like themselves again. The defense was substandard, the offensive haphazard.
“We usually take advantage of our big push and not look back,” Curry said. “It was just frustrating the way we played in the third quarter once we did all that work to get back into the game.”
The Warriors (48-5) looked like the older, slower, less focused version of the Blazers, who suddenly have won nine of their last 10 games.
“We didn’t show a lot of intelligence with managing the game, and that’s as a group,” Kerr said. “Our whole team, coaches, everybody, we did not handle that game very well in the second half.”
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The Blazers (28-27) shot 53.6 percent, highest of any Warriors opponent this season. Portland’s 137 points is 14 better than any previous Warriors opponent this season.
Every single Warrior played, and all but Klay Thompson (plus-2) finished in the minus column.
Where do the Warriors go from here? They go to Los Angeles, where they will see their eternal enemies, the Clippers, who also have been playing fantastic basketball.
That’s one way to remember what it takes to win.
For now, the Warriors are back in a dead heat with those Bulls after 53 games. Chicago also was 48-5. They went 24-5 over the remainder of the season.
They, too, came back from a truly ugly loss, by the same margin. So the quest for 73 remains in view, if only a bit more distant than it seemed Friday morning.