SAN ANTONIO -- The "L" word reverberated throughout the locker room Wednesday after a fast start morphed into slow death for the San Antonio Spurs, which saw a 22-point first quarter lead disintegrate into a 110-98 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Nearly every Spur interviewed said they'd "learn" from this, or characterized the game's outcome as a "learning experience."
"I think it's a great learning experience," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "Reality check? We knew who we were playing. One of the best teams of the last few years ... . It was not going to be easy. We knew it was going to be tough."
The Spurs also now understand their road through the postseason probably will track a little more adversely as most likely the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. San Antonio probably knocked itself out of a shot at securing the top seed, as it fell 3½ games back of Golden State with eight games left in the regular season.
It's a fate the veteran Spurs can accept, but not without critical self-evaluation to prevent a another meltdown should the teams meet again in the Western Conference finals. Surrendering a 22-point lead to a Golden State team playing without an injured Kevin Durant even led Spurs guard Danny Green to consider what they're missing given the retirement of franchise icon Tim Duncan.
"It's the NBA. You can't dwell on any of them," Green said. "You learn from it and move forward, be more professional, and try to get better. In the past that's where Timmy was good for us, or teams in the past just collectively. We wouldn't let things like that happen. It might happen, but rarely. But I think it's happened more often than it should here at this time and this year.
"I wouldn't say it was a wake-up call. We knew what was at stake. We knew what we had to do. We did it. We just didn't do it for 48 minutes."
Having posted a 34-1 record over the Warriors at home over the past 20 years, San Antonio appeared to be well on the way to gobbling up win No. 35 after storming to a 15-0 lead on the strength of Green's third 3-pointer just a little more than four minutes into the game.
With 5:01 left in the opening quarter, the Spurs extended the lead to 20 points (23-3) on a LaMarcus Aldridge fadeaway jumper. A minute and 32 seconds later, Aldridge knocked down a 3 on an assist from Kawhi Leonard to put the Spurs up by 22 points.
The rout seemed to be afoot.
"We made shots," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I thought they were a little sloppy defensively. But they got it back, certainly."
The Warriors started off hitting 1-of-4 from 3-point range uncontested in the opening quarter, but by the 11:02 mark of the fourth quarter, the team had drained 7-of-10 on such shots for 19 points. The Warriors connected on 27 percent (3-of-11) when shooting off of a teammate's pass in the first quarter, before draining 72 percent for the rest of the game on those shots (28-of-39).
San Antonio compounded Golden State's hot shooting late by missing assignments and not communicating on defense.
"Yeah, [if] you don't communicate defensively, they're going to get a bucket, and a lot of times it's going to be a 3, which hurts," Green said. "We've got to do a better job of scrambling, talking, communicating. As veterans, we've got to do a better job of leading, and learn how to finish teams off, learn how to continue to stay professional and play 48 minutes, and not let teams back in it and not let them get any light. We've gotten some leads and blown them a couple of times just by sloppy play."
Golden State fell behind 29-7 with 3:29 remaining in the opening quarter. From there, the Warriors outscored the Spurs 103-69, while shooting 56.9 percent, including 12-of-22 from deep with 30 assists and only nine turnovers. San Antonio, on the flip side, scored just 69 points, shot 38.1 percent, recorded 15 assists and turned it over 13 times.
In all, Golden State scored 23 points off Spurs turnovers, and in the process locked down Leonard, who shot 7-of-20 for 19 points with five turnovers.
The last time the Spurs led by at least 15 points after the first quarter, and then lost by double-digits was April 8, 2009 when they took a 33-16 lead over the Portland Trail Blazers only to fall 95-83.
"Just the same that I've been seeing for probably about the past few weeks," Leonard said when asked how the Warriors defended him. "Just double screening the ball, pick and roll, coming help side on my isolations. They did a great job showing hands and crowding."
The Warriors disrupted the Spurs with all their switching. In those instances, San Antonio "settled" according to Aldridge, and played one-on-one ball too often, as opposed to continuing to move the ball to find better shots.
"They just took us out of a lot of things," Aldridge told ESPN.com. "I thought we got passive, and kind of settled a little bit. The Game 1 versus them was so long ago, but I felt like we didn't settle as much. I thought we still attacked and tried to make things happen. I thought tonight we kind of settled a little bit.
"Defensively, we just made too many mistakes. I think the hot start kind of got us going. But then they picked it up, and we should have made [fewer] mistakes. This team is good. They're going to make shots. They're not going to give up. I thought we made too many mistakes to let them back in the game. In the first quarter, the ball was moving, and guys were getting shots. I think as the game went on, we kind of went stagnant. When they switched stuff, we just kind of just gave into it. We didn't move the ball and make them keep guarding."