They were miserable about blowing a 19-point lead, as well they should have been for opening the door to debacle.
But they were utterly flabbergasted by the dark comedy — from their point of view — staged by the officiating crew over the final seconds of a 131-130 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
They left the Target Center floor practically giggling. They knew what happened, knew how they were going to respond, and decided this would be one of those rare instances when, even after losing, the wackiness called for laughter as perhaps the only response.
The Warriors were perfectly willing to laugh their way to the bank, though not for the usual reasons. They’ll be digging into their pockets to pay fines to the NBA for what the Warriors believe — with some validity — was being victims in a robbery.
After watching repeated postgame video replays of the final seconds, during which Kevin Durant was denied a four-point play opportunity that would have given them a 130-127 lead with 4.4 seconds remaining in overtime, the Warriors lined up and took turns verbally roughing up the game officials.
Coach Steve Kerr got in his licks. Stephen Curry came in kicking. Durant jumped in, too, throwing a few punches.
"I want to keep my money cause they gave me two bullsh*t techs... let me just stop talking about the officiating." pic.twitter.com/ZsRa113K72— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 30, 2019
Referee Marat Kogut, who has officiated more than 500 NBA games over the past 10 years, was the primary target. It was Kogut who, by any reasonable assessment, botched the call when Durant drained what appeared to a game-tying 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds remaining. Kogut ruled that Minnesota rookie Keita Bates-Diop committed a foul on Durant before the Warriors star went into his shooting motion.
The shot didn’t count, and there would be no potential game-winning free-throw attempt to follow.
This last sequence in OT 😶 pic.twitter.com/IoZdmpFUkd— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 30, 2019
Players on both sides appeared to be confused by the call, which gave the ball back to the Warriors, who tied it anyway, on a miraculous corner 3-pointer by Curry with 0.8 seconds left.
Curry’s clutch triple came, however, without the potential clincher, giving the Timberwolves the ball with 0.5 seconds remaining and the Warriors a minuscule chance at victory.
That was enough, as Durant was whistled for a foul on Karl-Anthony Towns as the Minnesota center broke toward the basket in anticipation of an inbounds pass. The whistling official, Leon Wood, is a 23-year veteran of more than 1,300 games.
Towns made the first free throw to provide the final margin, and intentionally missed the second to run out the clock.
The Warriors’ response to the conclusion was to shake their heads and laugh. They’d done their part in a horrid third quarter — with 5-of-20 shooting and eight turnovers — to give back a victory they should have had.
“We went into halftime with 20 assists and three turnovers ... broke the game open in the second quarter,” Kerr said. “We were rolling along, and everyone was feeling great at halftime.
”The third quarter was a disaster. We stopped playing. Give Minnesota a lot of credit. They competed really well, got back in the game. We stepped on our own toes in that quarter.”
But the Warriors then rallied from a six-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation to force OT, during which they wiped a nine-point deficit over the final 92.5 seconds.
Only to end up losing to the sour sounds of whistles.
“For sure, in the third quarter we didn’t play well,” Curry told reporters at Target Center. “They made a run, and that’s when it became a game, down the stretch. It’s just tough, effort like that gets sabotaged.”
There are times when punishment, whether physical or financial, is worth taking because the act is so cathartic. For the Warriors, this was such a time.
They’ll all pay for their “crimes.” The good news for the Warriors is that there are so many ways to pay. After what went on in the final minutes of overtime, I’d send cash.