Even though Friday was April Fool’s Day, this was no joke. The Boston Celtics actually did go into The Oracle in Oakland and come out with an thrilling 109-106 victory over the Golden State Warriors. It marked the first time in 54 games that the Warriors lost a regular season game at home. Nearly a full season and a half. Maybe more importantly, the loss makes the feat of surpassing the 1996 Chicago Bulls’ NBA regular season record of 72-10 that much harder. The Warriors will now have to win 5 of it’s final 6 games. Two of those games are on the road, with one of them being in San Antonio. All of a sudden, what looked like a pretty safe bet to break the record, looks more questionable. However, in the grand scheme of things, this loss may turn out to be the best thing, at the right time to happen if the defending champs are ultimately going to defend their title.
Recently, the Warriors have been playing with fire. Friday night, they were finally burned. Sure they lost to the Spurs a couple of weeks ago. But this is a loss to a team the Warriors are clearly better than. And it came at home.
A combination of lapses on defense for periods at a time, a higher rate of turnovers, and silly fouls have made life harder on Steph Curry and company and kept opposing teams hanging around until the end of games. Until Friday night, someone for Golden State, whether it was Steph or Draymond Green or whomever always seemingly made a play to save the day. Despite several chances that game-saving play never happened Friday against the Celtics.
Over the duration of a long 82-game NBA season it can be quite easy for a team to lose their focus from time to time. Especially, a team that’s trying to defend a title. Add to that the pursuit of the Bulls’ regular season record and you have a team that’s ready to end the regular season and get on with the playoffs. Friday’s loss gives head coach Steve Kerr the opportunity to get his team back on track. Until you lose a game like this it’s a little more difficult to recognize there’s actually an issue. Therefore, making it more difficult for a coach to get his team’s attention. Kerr should have it now and the Warriors will likely be better for it.
Give much credit to Celtics head coach Brad Stevens and his club. The Celtics, with their back court of Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, and Evan Turner, defended the Warriors as well as anyone and made Curry work for every point. Curry still managed to score 29 points. But twenty-one of those came in the 3rd quarter. Steph, only scored eight points the rest of the game. That, forcing twenty-two turnovers, slowing the pace of the game and timely shooting proved to be the deciding factors in the Celtics’ victory.
After the game, of course it wasn’t the same jubilant Warriors’ locker room. But the confidence was still there. One example of a team that needed to lose a game in a particular regular season was the 2007 New England Patriots. The Pats rolled to a 16-0 regular season mark that season. But then lost in the Super Bowl to the heavy underdog New York Giants. Another example came just last year, when the Kentucky Wildcats were undefeated for the season and a Final Four participant. However, Big Blue lost to Wisconsin in the semifinals. Much like the Warriors, each of these teams had close calls throughout their seasons. A loss may have taken some of the pressure off Tom Brady and company to go on and win the Super Bowl. Karl Anthony-Towns (KAT) and the Wildcats could probably have used a loss somewhere in the regular season or SEC tournament. Going undefeated was incredible. But without the hardware, it’s almost forgettable.
The Warriors face the same consequences. We all know Bill Belichick and John Calipari relish moments where they can coach and teach. Kerr seems to have a similar makeup about him. Kerr, who missed nearly the entire first half of the season had a smile on his throughout the post-game interview. He knows now that he should have the full attention of his players. Couple that with Andre Iguodala, and Festus Ezeli returning from injury, the likelihood of another long winning streak is quite likely. And that couldn’t come at a better time.