The Golden State Warriors suffered one of the more shocking playoff losses in recent memory, squandering a 31-point third-quarter lead to the Clippers on Monday, allowing the road team to even the series 1-1 heading to Los Angeles. Adding to the indignity of defeat, Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins suffered a torn quad during Game 2, and his availability for the remainder of the postseason is in question.
We’re only two games into the playoffs, and there are more cracks in Golden State’s armor than anyone would have thought possible a week ago. Does all of this mean that there is real intrigue in who will emerge as the Western Conference champion, or will the Warriors happily accept this as a blip on the radar while ownership cashes gate receipts from a now-certain Game 5 en route to another Finals appearance?
Championship teams getting blown out isn’t all that uncommon. Golden State has made it a habit of mailing in road games on occasion during their title runs. Cleveland memorably laid an egg in Toronto during the 2016 Eastern Conference finals. Losing uncomfortably isn’t uncommon.
But it’s hard to remember a team getting embarrassed like this, on its home floor no less, on the way to winning a title. The list of the biggest blown leads in playoff history consists mostly of teams that lost the series, and none that have rebounded to win it all. Only the Nets managed to make the Finals after losing a 26-point lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, but they were swept away by the Los Angeles Lakers, who came back from a 24-point deficit in their conference finals series.
However, this Warriors team is a historical anomaly. The level of talent Golden State possesses, even without Cousins for the foreseeable future, is far superior to the average NBA champion. Even after capturing homecourt advantage, the Clippers aren’t close to being favored to beat the Warriors, though there may be something revealed from this latest defeat that can give another opponent some hope against Golden State.