You might think losing by 22 points to a team that is fired up to beat you qualifies as taking a pretty big L before the league-mandated mini-vacation that this weekend offers.
But you’d be wrong.
In it’s own circuitous way, this loss was a win for the Warriors. Because they rode their horses into the break, guns and middle fingers drawn, proudly not giving a . . . well, you know.
And that makes for a dangerous Warriors team.
Early on in the year - think back to the altercation between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant - the Warriors lacked the cockiness, the bravado, the devil-may-care recklessness befitting a team that could lose two starters and still be considered title favorites.
On Wednesday? It was there. It was there to the extent that the Warriors were so comfortable with their standing, their ability, and their position that they didn’t seem particularly invested in winning - flexing their muscles was of greater importance.
After Klay Thompson was called for an offensive foul, second-year big Zach Collins began mouthing at him like an angry driver at a six-way intersection. Klay began to laugh it off as he always does, before deciding he’d rather remind Collins who’s headed to his fifth All-Star Game and who’s preparing for a long weekend at home.
Klay was not happy with Collins pic.twitter.com/e5jrlnnpXz— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 14, 2019
Collins had some words for Klay pic.twitter.com/dfOauJgUL8— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 14, 2019
Steph Curry started to intervene, before deciding it’d be more interesting to see how it plays out.
Later, with the game already decided, Klay and Kevin Durant stood on the sideline, leaning towards the court, hurling words at Portland’s mouthy youngster. In the fourth quarter alone, those two All-Stars used more words than they had in the last three weeks combined. Unsurprisingly, Draymond Green joined in on the fun.
Collins still running his mouth. pic.twitter.com/G8MHGzjKMC— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 14, 2019
In between the two Collins incidents, Steve Kerr got ejected. Ejected probably isn’t the right word. What’s stronger than ejected?
Kerr managed to get ejected, put on a one-man, three-act play, counsel Kenny Mauer on some pressing issues, and get in his daily workout. A prime multi-tasker.
Coach Kerr LOST IT after Dray was given a flagrant foul pic.twitter.com/mIVJo55tRj— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 14, 2019
Were the Warriors trying to lose? Of course not. But the message was clear: They’re entering the All-Star break with a two-game lead in the Western Conference standings, in a year where they probably don’t deem home court advantage to even be important. They’re healthy. They’ve won 16 of their last 18 games. Durant is playing perhaps the best basketball of his career, and Curry isn’t far behind.
Finding a W would have been nice, but Golden State found something a bit more important in displaying a cockiness that reminded a hyped Portland team that this was only one February game.
After the contest ended, a tweet circulated featuring a quote from Damian Lillard.
Damian Lillard to ESPN after his Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Golden State Warriors, 125-108: "We're the real deal."— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) March 10, 2018
Many people - yours truly included - commented on the quote before noting the timestamp: March 9, 2018.
Lillard didn’t say that the Blazers were the real deal after beating the Warriors on Wednesday. He said it after beating the Warriors a year ago - just a month before Portland was swept out of the playoffs in the first round to a team missing their second-best player.
And that’s exactly the point.