When you watch the best team in the league, a team whose success is entirely defined by the series count of the NBA Finals in June, there aren’t many sorts of losses they can take.
Doing a corny photo shoot and getting clowned for it on Twitter? Sure, I guess that qualifies as an L.
Steve Kerr giving Anderson Varejao critical game minutes? Thankfully, that L opportunity has been taken off the table.
Forgetting about the game entirely until three minutes before tip-off? That would definitely qualify as an L, and if ever there was a chance for such a spectacle to occur, please note that the Warriors have a 12:30pm PST tip on Sunday in New York — a day after Draymond Green’s birthday. They should just wave the white flag by having Stephen Curry wrap an empty bottle of Hennessy in a towel and throw it from the tunnel pre-game trick-shot style.
Losing a game of regular season basketball when you’re 50-9 and have already locked up a playoff spot just after the All-Star break? That’s more of a meaningless anomaly than an actual L.
Losing a star player to injury? Well, that’s an L. That is a big, fat, stinking L.
Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury just 93 seconds into the first quarter on Tuesday. It was one of those freak things that make you wonder how it doesn’t happen all the time. Zaza Pachulia tried holding position against Marcin Gortat, who somehow tossed him aside like a little brother, right into the front of Durant’s leg:
Here's the play that Pachulia fell back into Durant's left knee pic.twitter.com/1E7eOULNnc— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) March 1, 2017
The good news is that he walked off the court without much of a limp, and Twitter doctors everywhere initially agreed that it’s likely to be a hyperextension and not utter devastation.
The bad news is, UGGHHHH WHYYYYY GODDD? Injuries are so STUPID, get them OUTTA here, and why is this regular season taking an eternity!!???!! Why are the Warriors playing eight games in eight different cities in a row?! Have you ever flown in an airplane? It is not good for your knees. I am sure of it.
And then the Warriors had to play a basketball game!
All things considered, it turned out to be a pretty entertaining one. The Warriors, after the Durant injury, looked completely out of sorts. They ended the first quarter with a 40-16 deficit, with uncharacteristically hair-brained defensive rotations and some East-coast-road-trip sluggishness getting back in transition. Pachulia’s 12 points and 8 boards sound better than he looked, and this was clearly one of those nights where JaVale McGee was going to be unplayable.
Stephen Curry decided to continue his recent trend of not hitting the three-ball, and tonight the ever-faithful Klay Thompson joined in on that particular brand of fun, going 3-13 from the arc and 5-20 overall. But Bradley Beal was lights-out in the quarter with three triples and a couple of deuces. One might call it a full house, but I guess we’re not doing poker analogies today.
But! Do you know what happens after the first quarter and the second quarter? You guessed it — the third quarter!
Many a foe of the Dubs have learned of this happenstance the hard way, and the Warriors turned their 12-point halftime hurdle into an 85-all affair by the fourth. Draymond Green tallied five assists in the quarter, ultimately finishing with 14 on the night and nearly a triple-double, while Curry hit a couple of threes just to remind us that he could. The bench turned in a great performance as well, scoring 41 in the game behind a throwback Shaun Livingston performance, along with a number of hustle plays that seemed simply unlikely to occur given the slop we were served in the first quarter.
Despite all of that, and despite Green putting them up by one point off of a trey with just 2:16 remaining — and tying it with another trey a minute later — the Warriors could not complete the comeback. The Wizards failed to go for a 2-for-1, resulting in a missed mid-range jumper from John Wall and an opportunity for Golden State to secure the ball with 20 seconds on the clock in a tie game.
But Otto Porter flashed in for a crucial offensive rebound and went to the charity stripe for his troubles, leading to the grande finale: With six seconds remaining, Curry launched a wide-open, straightaway three from 31 feet — yes, a deep shot for mere mortals, but not for Curry — that was a heartbreakingly few inches long and left.
Ballgame ... against a good Wizards team, now 25-8 at home, behind an astounding 19-assist game from the superb Wall.
We know the Warriors have a shot to lose if they get outshot at the three-point line, and the Wiz poured them in tonight, while the Dubs might have needed a good shooting night from Durant just to put them into the range of respectability in 3FG%.
If one is looking for a fuller glass, this game provided proof that Golden State can almost overcome a major injury and a bad shooting night. And, hey — they have another crunch time rep under their belt, one that was a defensive rebound and a few inches away from looking like a tremendous success.
In the end, though, a loss.
Yes, counted in the loss column, but more so as a bitter taste that fans and players alike have to endure while Kevin Durant’s availability for the remainder of the Warriors’ 2016-17 campaign remains uncertain — the real cost of Tuesday’s events is yet to be determined.