The Warriors' Saturday night matchup against the Boston Celtics had all of the ingredients to make it a classic.
Lethal long-distance shooting. Mind-boggling acrobatic shots. Immense hustle. A back-and-forth scoring battle that came down to the final seconds.
It was the kind of game that made you wish the Warriors and Celtics played in the same conference, because a seven-game playoff series would be a basketball junkie's dream.
"I'm in awe of what I watched tonight," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "From a skill level and level of competition, it felt like a playoff game out there. Both teams were just gassed and competed like crazy."
Though the Warriors lost 119-114, Golden State took far more positives than negatives.
Steph Curry continued his dominant stretch, putting up 47 points and hitting 11 3-pointers. It was his third straight game with 10 or more triples and 10th with at least 30 points, tying Kobe Bryant for the most consecutive 30-point games by a player who's at least 33 years old.
For the third game in a row, the Warriors bench gave Golden State a lead or extended a preexisting one, a much-needed improvement from earlier this season.
Most importantly, the Warriors' relatively young, inexperienced roster got a taste of what it might be like in a playoff series. Or, more realistically, in a play-in game.
"It hurts to lose, but I told the team I feel like they got better," Kerr said. "Tonight, they understood. The young guys especially got a lesson, and now understand what a playoff game feels like and why everything matters."
"It's good to experience games like this just to prepare yourself," Andrew Wiggins said. "Knowing what it's going to be like, the type of players you're going to be up against on offense and what kind of defense we're going to see."
Playoff games are nearly impossible to replicate during the regular season. However, the Warriors caught a glimpse Saturday of what that level of play and competition feels like. Golden State also saw how to fight back from a deficit, something the Warriors have struggled to do all season.
The Warriors' persistent problems were also highlight, costing them down the stretch against the Celtics. Those issues will need to be rectified for Golden State to have any chance of closing out tight games down the stretch.
"The difference in the game, I think it's that they got 14 more field-goal attempts than we did," Kerr said. "That's a combination of their offensive boards and our turnovers."
The Warriors committed 18 turnovers for 23 Celtics points, while Boston grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to Golden State's eight.
Turnovers have stung the Warriors all season, but Golden State has steadily improved. The same is true of all of the Warriors' major issues. Over the last eight games, Golden State finally seems like a team capable of making the run Kerr has promised.
The Warriors showed they're capable of fighting against some of the NBA's top teams and, with a little cleaner basketball, moving up the standings. This doesn't mean they're going to earn the No. 6 seed, but they can make other teams in similar situations sweat.
Still, there's no room to relax.
"It's great," Draymond Green said. "It definitely had a playoff feel with the intensity level and the physicality. So this is definitely a game that guys will be able to pull from and look back on. It's good to learn that intensity.
"But the reality is, no regular season is going to prepare you for a playoff game. As much as playing in tough games helps, ain't no regular-season game preparing you a playoff game. Playoff basketball is just different. But, nonetheless, that was a great game for us to play in."