The Warriors had done it so often and so consistently during this magical season that one could be forgiven for thinking the results were preordained. No matter the direness of the situation — be it tired legs, wayward shots, or the Nets’ Brook Lopez with a wide open put back — these Warriors always found a way to escape certain defeat with an improbable victory. Always, that is, until the team met a well-coached, upstart Celtics squad on Friday night in Oracle Arena. After Boston seized a 10-point advantage early in the fourth quarter, the Dubs, behind eight consecutive points by Draymond Green in the final frame, fought valiantly to erase most of the double-digit deficit. But when Stephen Curry’s game-tying attempt rimmed out and Harrison Barnes last-second fling found nothing but air, Golden State’s 54-game home win streak and bid for an undefeated season at Oracle came to a quick and sudden death. The players headed quietly toward the locker room and fans stood stunned in silence. It was only loss number eight on the season, but it was the first one that truly hurt as a fan.
Here are 10 thoughts on the game:
1) The Warriors have won more than a few games they probably didn’t deserve (at home against the Nets and on the road in OKC come to mind). They’ve become masters of escaping bleak circumstances, like the Harry Houdini of basketball. But that kind of a streak is unsustainable and bound to come to an end. Boston (and especially Avery Bradley) was great at smothering Stephen Curry one-on-one with a help defender never more than a step away. By the time the Dubs adjusted in the second half to spring Curry free (21 points in the third), Isaiah Thomas had also gotten loose (18 points in third). Each time the Warriors countered, the Celtics had a gutsy, calculated answer. Andrew Bogut’s in the game? Have Thomas attack him on a high switch. Brad Stevens has Boston playing great basketball and they deserved to win this game. The Warriors were too sloppy (22 turnovers) and their defense was too porous, allowing Boston to score 109 points on 47% shooting. This was a game the Dubs might’ve been able to “steal” but, eventually, even the greatest escape artists get caught.
2) Harrison Barnes can’t catch a break. He hits a big time corner three to give the Warriors a chance, but the Twitterati only wants to blame him for not passing the ball to Steph in that final possession. I mean, there were 1.2 seconds left when HB got the rebound and Steph was behind him. Behind. Like, can’t see. And no time.
3) If fans want to harp on any shot attempt, harp on the triple Dray took in transition. Look, I love Dray and he had every right to take that shot — he had already connected on three 3-pointers in the game and his fourth quarter scoring kept the Dubs close — but I would’ve much rather he taken one dribble inside the arc, spun back and passed the rock to Curry who was running unimpeded behind him. But like the HB play, Curry was behind him.
4) It’s hard not to think about a few of the blunders in the final minutes: Brandon Rush bobbling the ball; Draymond’s turnover with 23 seconds remaining; Curry missing an open game-tying three; HB missing Curry. But that’s how it goes sometimes. And had the Warriors won, Celtics fans would be lambasting that Draymond “screen.”
5) After Curry hit a triple from the mid-court emblem, Bradley picked him up from half court the rest of the game. On the very next play Curry blew by Bradley and dropped a pass to an open Anderson Varejao in the lane. Smart play.
6) Andrew Bogut (and the rest of the bigs) had no chance trying to chase Thomas in the lane in the third quarter, which begs the question: Why didn’t Steve Kerr go with Dray at center sooner? Saving him for the playoffs, perhaps.
7) Andre Iguodala’s excellent help defense probably could’ve slowed Thomas just a bit from the weak side … and definitely he wouldn’t have dropped the ball in transition like Rush. (It’s worth mentioning that Boston was without defensive ace Jae Crowder too.)
8) I’m a big time karma guy. Since Joe Lacob said the Warriors “are light years ahead” of NBA competition, the team is winless at home.
9) Think about how far the Dubs have come. After decades of trotting out comically inept teams, this regular season home loss in April was tabbed as “Breaking News” on ESPN’s home page.
10) I wanted these records in tandem. Undefeated at home and 73 wins. Now that one is gone, I’m fine if Kerr and the players elect to rest up and get ready for another long playoff run instead of chase history. But knowing this team, until (and unless) loss number 10 becomes a reality, they’ll keep on trying to win every game.