OAKLAND – So ends the whispers about another sweep, of the Warriors rolling through the Western Conference playoffs and waltzing into the NBA Finals.
And so, too, ends their shield of invincibility at Oracle Arena.
The goal of winning both home games and taking a 2-0 lead over Memphis in the Western Conference semifinals was denied Tuesday night, as the Warriors took a 97-90 setback to the revivified and suddenly robust Grizzlies.
"It's the playoffs and this is kind of how it works," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of his team's first loss (through six games) this postseason. "You get outplayed by a really good team, and they you're going to lose whether you're at home or on the road. It's 1-1, and we move on."
That the Warriors never quite got a grip on this game had as much to do with what Memphis did well than what they themselves did poorly. The Grizzlies played rough, physical defense, as promised and as is their custom, while also getting an immense lift from the return of point guard Mike Conley.
Conley's return after a 10-day absence during which he underwent facial surgery could not have gone better if he had scripted it. His 4-of-4 shooting in the first quarter made an instant statement that this series was about to get competitive.
"They're more comfortable when he's on the floor, and you can tell," said Stephen Curry, who prior to tipoff received his MVP trophy from league commissioner Adam Silver. "They kind of know what to expect, especially on the offensive end. He seemed very aggressive to score early and I think they missed that from the point guard position (in Game 1). That was his mission, to start the game coming off the pick-and-roll looking to score, not really looking to distribute at all."
The Warriors fell behind by as much as 11 in the first quarter and never quite recovered. When they cut the margin to two (41-39) with 1:31 left in the second quarter, the Grizzlies responded by closing the half on a 9-0 run.
The Warriors spent the rest of the evening trying to catch up and never got closer than seven.
With Conley at the controls, Memphis settled into the kind of slow, grinding basketball they like. Rarely were the Warriors able to break through and crank up the pace. And when they did, for a minute or two, the Grizzlies slowed it again.
"It's what they do," Kerr said. "They pound you on the block and then if you turn the ball over against them and they get some lanes, now they have some confidence.
"This is kind of what this series is about. We want to play fast. They want to play show. And they got the tempo where they needed it."
The Warriors shot 41.9 percent overall, and only 23.1 percent beyond the arc. Though they won the rebounding battle, 45-38, they had more turnovers, 20 (off which Memphis scored 22 points) than assists (16).
"We lost our poise tonight," Kerr said.
"We were too emotional," he continued. "We were too quick with our intention to score. Instead of just moving the ball and setting good screens, everyone was trying to do everything frantically on their own."
Draymond Green, the team's most passionate player, totally agreed with his coach.
"We definitely did – everybody," he said. "That's one thing we said would win this series, and we kind of got away from that today."
A lot got away from the Warriors on this night. Their 21-game home win streak is over, along with the 26-game home win streak against Western Conference opponents. Gone also is their flawless postseason record.
"They played with a lot more fire than they did the other day," Green said. "And we definitely didn't play our best . . . we just weren't ourselves."
Leandro Barbosa provided a nice spark off the bench: 14 points in 14 minutes.
Andrew Bogut was efficient and productive: eight points (4-of-5 shooting), game-high-tying 12 rebounds and two assists.
Andre Iguodala was the team's best bomber, taking two 3-pointers and making both.
Klay Thompson had an utterly forgettable night: 13 points (6-of-15 shooting, 1-of-6 from deep) and a game-high five turnovers.
With Thompson leading the way, every starter had at least two giveaways. They totaled 11 assists and 15 turnovers.
Curry missed nine of his 11 3-point attempts.
Conley's return changed the aura of the Grizzlies, and his performance altered the dynamic of this series. So dominant were the Warriors in Game 1 that they had reason to believe they vastly superior. They are, if facing Nick Calathes instead of Conley.
But this was a slap to the face, an eye-opener of sorts. Winning this series is going to require a lot of determination and will, and even more execution. If the Warriors get back to their ball-movement basics, they'll be fine. If not, it's an invitation to trouble.