Besides the ridiculous travel schedule that would come as a result, the opportunity to move to the Eastern Conference sounds like it would be an absolute gift for the Warriors — especially after playing a fractured Knicks squad. But the Warriors don’t fare especially well against teams that defend and play at a slow place, which is exactly why they’re liable to have trouble against second-tier East teams like Chicago, Charlotte, Washington and Toronto.

The Warriors held an 84-78 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Raptors went on a fourth quarter run fueled by Golden State turnovers, Stephen Curry’s fatigue and 20 combined points for DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Patterson to win 104-98.

“(Raptors) call a timeout. Coming out of that timeout they go on an 11-0 run. We don’t take care of the basketball down the stretch. Little things like that are going to cost you, and they certainly cost us tonight,” said Mark Jackson. “Just a bad loss for us.”

Talking about gambling advice given after the fact makes little to no sense, but I’m going to go ahead and discuss this game’s line anyway. I was taking a walk through Golden Gate Park this morning, and for whatever reason I was curious about the line. I figured the Raptors would be favored by at least a point, maybe even two or three, due to the following advantages:

  • The Raptors went into the game with a record of 32-26.
  • The game started at 1 pm PST, a rarity for the Warriors.
  • Toronto should’ve beaten the Warriors the first time they faced, when the Raptors had a 24-point lead late in the fourth quarter but were outscored by 27 points in the fourth.

Instead, my phone replied that the Warriors were favored by either two or two-and-a-half points across the board.

“Is someone on the Raptors injured?” I wondered.

No, but Jermaine O’Neal had some sort of passport problem that kept him from entering Canada with his teammates. It’s unknown who screwed up, whether O’Neal lost his passport, had it stolen, or simply neglected to renew it. For someone who’s been so outspoken about how the Warriors need to bring the energy and intensity every single game, it’s pretty disappointing to hear that he couldn’t bring a valid passport.

oofIt’s not clear what Jackson’s plan was without O’Neal available, but it appeared as if his strategy was to play Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson as much as possible and hope everything turned out peachy.

Curry scored 34 points and dished out seven assists in 43 minutes; Lee also played 43 minutes and had 20 points and 11 rebounds (to go along with some really lousy work on the defensive end, even for him), and Thompson only lasted 27 minutes due to foul trouble throughout the second half.

Thompson didn’t have an assist, but he found time to take 15 shots … he only made four.

This was the kind of game where they really could’ve/should’ve used Draymond Green for more than 17 minutes, since the Raptors love to utilize stretch-fours and did so very well on Sunday evening. Nope, Green sat for the last 6:45 of this game.

Most of the blame for this loss will fall on the Warriors’ poor defensive rotations during the last 10 minutes, as well as four turnovers in the last 2:10. Jackson was far from diplomatic when describing the late-game effort from his point guard, who committed two of the team’s final four giveaways and four turnovers overall in the fourth quarter.

“Steph is good enough, no matter what defense he’s seeing, to not leave (the game) with six turnovers,” Jackson said. “He knows he’s got to be better.”

But the real turning point, and perhaps the reason why the Warriors’ best player looked completely gassed throughout the final quarter, came in the second quarter.

The Warriors started that quarter with a 28-25 lead, which the bench pushed to 34-26 on a Harrison Barnes jumper. Then the Raptors held the Warriors scoreless for the next three minutes, which led Jackson to put Curry in for Steve Blake and Lee in for Marreese Speights with 7:11 to go in the half.

Curry didn’t rest in the first, third or fourth quarters, and he played the last 7:11 in the second quarter.

And there’s that #FullSquad anchor, back to haunt the Warriors. No O’Neal, no bench. And the Raptors’ contact-drawing style sucked the energy out of both Lee (who’s still probably feeling weaker than usual after a fairly serious illness) and Curry.

“They did a good job defending us,” said Iguodala on the Warriors’ fourth quarter struggles. “They’re a physical team, East Coast team.”

Yes, it would be a distinct advantage for the Warriors if they could face teams like Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando, Detroit, Boston, Cleveland and New York more often than twice this season. But this trip has also shown that if the Warriors were magically dropped into the East, they wouldn’t automatically be the third best team behind Miami and Indiana, who they get to face in two days.

Dub Steps

– How many times did Kyle Lowry fall on purpose in this game? 15? It’s a smart way to play — and something Curry should do more of — but Lowry’s style isn’t exactly easy on the eyes.

– Jonas Valanciunas made Andrew Bogut look bad early with some hook shots (and one play where he dunked after knocking Bogut to the ground), but Bogut had the block of the night on Landry Fields’ dunk attempt.

– Bogut and Lee have both had some great games this season, but the fact that neither player can shoot from beyond six feet is bogging down the offense.

– Every once in a while Iguodala scores on a drive that’s so impressive that it makes everyone want more. Whether it’s running more plays for Iguodala or sending him to hypnotherapy, the Warriors have to open up that part of his game. It’s there … somewhere.

– They showed the wild Warriors victory in Toronto back in 2010 that gave Don Nelson the all-time record for wins as a head coach. A lot of people point to that mark and yell “FRAUD,” because Nelson never won a championship. So it was interesting to see that of the eight coaches with the most wins, four (Nelson, Jerry Sloan, George Karl and Rick Adelman) are ringless.