The unthinkable happened to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on Monday in San Antonio.
Mark Jackson's young squad led the Spurs by 16 points with four minutes to go in regulation, but then the wheels fell off, as the Spurs outscored the visitors 18-2 to tie the game at 106 points apiece and force overtime.
Both teams battled back and forth into double-overtime before a miscommunication by the Warriors on defense led to a wide-open three-pointer by Manu Ginobili that he promptly buried. Golden State went from stealing a huge game in San Antonio to losing it in heartbreaking fashion, 129-127.
Now, the question becomes: Can the Warriors bounce back?
It's easiest to look at the X's and O's of this game to determine where Golden State went wrong, so we'll start there.
First of all, turnovers killed the Warriors. They committed 21 of them, something that trickled over from their first-round series against the Denver Nuggets (they averaged 18.7 turnovers in six games in Round 1). The Spurs ended up scoring 21 points on those 21 turnovers.
San Antonio also lit it up from beyond the arc, which was something the Nuggets weren't able to do. The Spurs went 13-of-26 from downtown, led by Danny Green, who went 6-of-9 from long distance.
Perhaps the Warriors can lock down on San Antonio's three-point shooting from Game 2 on. They ranked seventh in opponents' three-point percentage during the regular season, though they did suffer through stretches where they were victimized by the drive-and-kick, leading to open perimeter treys.
What's most concerning—and what should have worried Warriors fans before Game 1 against the Spurs—is that the Warriors ranked 28th in the NBA in turnovers per game during the regular season. That included ranking 24th in turnovers per possession, via TeamRankings.com.
So, needless to say, this was no fluke.
Going by the numbers, the Warriors obviously stand a far better chance against San Antonio if they limit their turnovers. But the biggest concern for Golden State fans is whether the club can come back mentally.
Backed by a hysterical home crowd, the barrage by the Spurs at the end of the game combined with Golden State's sudden inability to put the ball in the basket is the kind of stuff hardwood nightmares are made of. After shooting 17-of-24 in the third quarter, the Warriors shot 5-of-20 in the fourth.
I thought Charles Barkley made a great point after the game on TNT's Inside the NBA. He said that a loss like that doesn't just feel like one loss—it feels much worse.
And while the Warriors did bounce back against the Nuggets after a meltdown in Game 1 of their first-round matchup, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News pointed out the main difference between the two series:
This is a young team, which only compounds the effects of such a devastating meltdown.
I'm not saying the Warriors are mentally fragile (anybody who has seen Mark Jackson coach the team this season knows that's not the case), but 13 of the 15 players on Golden State's current roster are under 30 years of age. David Lee, who is out with a torn hip flexor, and Richard Jefferson, who is seldom used off the bench, are the only exceptions.
The six Warriors who played more than 30 minutes on Monday (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Jarrett Jack, Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green) average 24.7 years of age. Heck, Barnes is still just 20 years old.
Monday's game went from a win that could have potentially catapulted the Warriors to the conference finals to a loss that could see them lose the series in four or five games, even with their decisive home-court advantage in Oakland.
Rebounding from a loss like that against a Gregg Popovich-coached team is simply expecting too much from this young team.