The early analysis on the Golden State Warriors’ freshly wounded collective psyche was delivered with admirable succinctness by head coach Steve Kerr.
“Everyone’s bummed,” he said as he surveyed the forensic evidence from Boston’s 109-106 victory. “Me, I told them how proud I was of them. We just lost.”
Ahh, but in a season defined by the Warriors’ mathematical invincibilities, their first home loss in regulation time in 506 days betrayed a slight deterioration of offensive efficiency and crispness that will be almost as worrisome as Andrew Bogut’s rib injury (X-rays negative, more news when it comes in).
As games go, this was an easy one to parse. The Celtics’ superior perimeter defense, the Warriors’ less precise cutting and passing, 22 turnovers (Leading to 27 Boston points) and 24 fouls (leading to another 19) made it a tough but understandable swallow.
They are now 68-8, which is not as tough to choke down.
But the Warriors were enjoying the mythology surrounding them as much as everyone else. They liked being indomitable at home. They liked being on the short money’s side of 73 wins. They liked being thought of as Jordan’s Bulls, and Kareem’s Lakers, and Chamberlain’s 76ers.
They liked all of it.
So the sound of broken glassware in their own kitchen was a jarring experience, for them, for the 19,596 captive worshipers, for the investors and the emotionally uninvested. This never losing had gone on an absurdly long time, and the more people gravitated toward it, the more grandiose the projections for their collective futures.
But losing to a Celtics team that is hard to solve now and only promising to become better in time brought back the old hectorings about keeping their eyes on the real prize, and more immediately, rest before record.
“I have a pact with them . . . if they’re banged up they have to tell us that,” Kerr said, with a slightly defensive twinge in his voice. “If not, we’re going to let them play.”
Now that the undefeated home season is blown, though, and the best-ever road record of 34-7 requires wins at San Antonio and Memphis, rest may become a slightly loftier goal. They have to go 5-1 to break the single-season record, and then there’s the playoff grind that brings its own heightened levels of scrutiny and weariness. Kerr is adamant that the Warriors are not tired, but as Kerr has said before, coaches lie.
On the other hand, non-coaches know about one-fifth of what they claim to know, and try to parse the spaces between words in quote sheets and video clips to find hidden meanings every utterance. So while Kerr might not know for sure what kind of rest his players really need, people who aren’t Kerr definitely don’t know.
What can be surmised with at least a measure of surety, though, is that the Warriors started to get comfortable with the idea that even their opponents understood their invulnerability, that if the early run didn’t get you, the late run would.
This time there were no real classic Warriors runs at all. They trailed at halftime in Oakland for only the fourth time all year, and led only 3:11 of the entire second half. Stephen Curry (29 points, six assists, nine turnovers) had 21 of those in the third quarter, but the rest of the night was a relative cypher, and for a rare evening, neither Klay Thompson nor Draymond Green could cover for him. Boston’s defense, in short, was that good, all night long.
More to the point, the Celtics were neither bowed nor afraid in the noted cauldron on 66th and 880. They had expended plenty of energy in a loss Thursday night in Portland, but had more than enough in reserve to hurl ink all over this one page of the Golden State Book of Magicks and Incantations (cq).
Are there conclusions to draw from this? All you want, though many of them will likely be wrong. This may expose the Warriors’ hidden flaws in pursuit of a minimally valuable record, or it may be one of those occasional games described merely as “one of those nights.” We’ll know which when we know, and not before.
But this much is clear. April 1, for all its pranksterish subtexts, was a night when the laws of athletic probability overcame the power of unrestricted flight . . . like it does to all the mortal teams.