SAN FRANCISCO — Some results come out of nowhere. A pesky 15-seed shoots the lights out and takes down a blue-blood in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. An unknown boxer knocks out the heavyweight champ. An upstart 15-year-old tennis player makes a miraculous run to a major final.
Some results, however, you can see coming a mile away.
Less than 24 hours after the Golden State Warriors picked up their biggest win of the season to snap the Phoenix Suns‘ franchise-record 18-game winning streak, Saturday night’s matchup with the San Antonio Spurs had all the makings of a classic trap game. The Warriors were nursing an emotional hangover on a back-to-back. The 5:30 p.m. Pacific start time was an hour and a half earlier than the night before. San Antonio was a young team with fresh legs that came in riding three straight impressive victories.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has seen enough basketball to know the writing was on the wall, and he warned his team of the looming danger during the pregame walkthrough.
“I brought it up. I mentioned that tonight’s gonna be all about energy and focus, and we’re gonna have to find that quickly,” Kerr said. “You mention it, just so you plant the seed. … Always want to get your guys aware of the circumstances going into everything.”
Needless to say, the Warriors did not find energy and focus quickly. The Spurs walked all over them in the first half en route to a 112-107 win to snap the Warriors’ 11-game home winning streak. San Antonio’s young athletes ran roughshod over the weary Warriors, who Kerr said were “a step slow” from the jump. The Spurs led by as many as 22 points, and received 20-plus-point efforts from Derrick White, Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV.
Stephen Curry had his second poor shooting performance of the week, starting 1 for 15 from the field and 1 for 8 from 3-point range. True to Curry’s nature, he started to get things going in the late third quarter and early fourth, sparking a huge Warriors run that saw them snatch the lead with 2:39 left in the game. It was too little, too late, however, as the Warriors scored just one point in the final two minutes, while going 0 for 5 from the field.
Kerr lauded the comeback effort after the game, saying that it revealed the team’s character and resilience. He chalked the team’s rough start up to fatigue and scheduling rather than a lack of focus or energy, and was proud of his group’s effort given the circumstances.
“Just drained. The effort was there,” Kerr said after the loss. “How do you question the effort when you’re down 22 in the second half and climb all the way back and take the lead and have a chance to win? There will never be any questioning our effort. We’ve got a bunch of competitors, a bunch of gamers. They competed. They gave everything. We just didn’t have quite enough.”
The loss dropped the Warriors back into a tie with the Suns for the league’s best record at 19-4, with the Orlando Magic and Portland Trail Blazers heading to Chase Center before Golden State embarks on a five-game, East Coast road trip. With the veteran-laden roster the Warriors possess, don’t expect this loss to linger in their minds for very long. In fact, it might turn into a positive.
“It’s a long season. Some games are gonna be like that, but it’s about how you respond,” Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson said after the loss. “We could have easily just said, you know what, whatever, it’s a back-to-back, rolled away and lost by 15 or whatever. But we fought until the end, and I’m proud of my team for that.”