The Warriors saw their eight-game win streak die Friday night in Oklahoma City. It could be, and will be, argued they invited defeat.
The temptation will be to second-guess coach Steve Kerr, who decided to rest center Andrew Bogut and forward Andre Iguodala for no other reason than having "old" legs as the Warriors confront an unforgiving portion of the schedule.
Resist the temptation. Resting Bogut and Iguodala was the right move.
The Warriors' 127-115 loss to the Thunder was a matter of being pushed off the Chesapeake Energy Arena floor by team that was friskier and consistently more assertive.
"We knew they were going to come after us," Kerr said. "They needed this win and they deserved it."
The Warriors, with Bogut and Iguodala, surely would have played better defense and might have won the game. They scrapped, staying close until the final minutes.
"We were missing two great players in our lineup," said Klay Thompson, who finished with a team-high 32 points. "But that's no excuse.
"I'm not disappointed with our effort. Our focus just wasn't what it was these last eight games, when we were winning."
Eight wins in a row is a point of pride. But Kerr is a rookie coach with a playoff team, so he's trying to manage a season. With the Warriors (31-6) holding the best record record in the NBA, postseason anticipation becomes part of the equation.
Kerr realizes his team might be good enough to win it all, so he's wise to keep part of his mind on today while also preparing for tomorrows that could last into June.
The Warriors likely won't get to June unless Bogut and Iguodala are along for the ride. And they certainly would have a more difficult time winning a championship if Bogut and Iguodala are not healthy and available.
This was about a long-term strategy, which is not to suggest that Kerr was waving the white flag before tip-off.
"I didn't come into this game conceding," the coach said. "I feel we can win no matter who's out there. It's important for our team to understand they've got to perform and execute, no matter what the combination is out there. No matter who's in, or who's out. That's what makes our team very strong, our depth. And that has to continue throughout the season for us to be in the best possible shape."
The Warriors already had won the season series against the Thunder (19-20). And they knew OKC, pumped by its boisterous home crowd, would be out for redemption after a lethargic performance Thursday night in Houston.
"They came out with a lot of energy and, obviously, with Bogues and Andre out we had to change our rotations and figure out a way to win," said Stephen Curry, who finished with 19 points, six assists. "We played well. They just played better."
Klay Thompson, seven stitches removed from his forehead, brought his game to the plains. He finished with 32 points, on 12-of-22 shooting, and was a primary reason the Warriors were as competitive as they were.
Marreese Speights, starting in place of Bogut, was solid, delivering 20 points (9-of-16 shooting), seven rebounds and four assists.
The Warriors gave up season highs in points, field goals (51), field-goal percentage (52.6) and points in the paint (58).
The Warriors also were pummeled on the glass, outrebounded 54-43. OKC grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, contributing to 17 second-chance points.
The Warriors committed 14 turnovers, off which the Thunder scored 20 points. Curry alone committed six giveaways, a total he has exceeded only twice this season.
Neither Justin Holiday nor Leandro Barbosa provided any punch off the bench. They combined for 6 points on 1-of-12 shooting.
The Warriors lost one game. One. It ended their third win streak of five games or more. If there is a team that can afford a one-game setback when 45 games remain, it is the Warriors.
They were outplayed in most every aspect. That might have been the case with Bogut and Iguodala on the floor. Keeping them off made things tougher for the Warriors. But it's a short-term sacrifice to improve the possibility of long-term gain.