SAN ANTONIO -- Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are young and talented, with a tendency for silly mistakes. They can be too impetuous. They are the reason the Warriors win some games and lose others.

Yet anyone who has watched the Warriors for more than five or six seconds this season realizes they would be nowhere near the playoffs, much less these Western Conference semifinals, without them.

No two Warriors had bigger roles in dictating the highs and lows of their double-overtime Game 1 loss to San Antonio on Monday night, and no two Warriors are better positioned for those roles over the remainder of this series.

If the Warriors win or lose in six or seven, know Curry and Thompson have rapidly accelerated their NBA development.

If the Warriors lose in four or five, presume the two guards, along with coach Mark Jackson, have learned valuable lessons.

In the case of the coach, he'll have to accept that this team's best chance to reach its ceiling is with the ball in Curry's hands and with Thompson continuing to develop his two-way game.

After Tuesday's practice in preparation for Game 2 on Wednesday night, Curry was engulfed by media asking about his 44-point night, his torrid third quarter, his ultraheavy workload and, naturally, the Warriors' gagging away a 16-point lead in four minutes.

Thompson, whose sixth and disqualifying foul in the fourth quarter coincided with the game slipping away from the Warriors, sat a few feet away offering blistering self-analysis.

"I only played 32 minutes," he said. "I feel I let everyone down, fouling out like that. When I have five fouls, I have to play smarter."

Thompson left with 3:57 remaining in regulation and the Warriors holding a 104-88 lead built largely on a significant rebounding edge, Curry's offense against all comers and Thompson's defense on hiccup-quick Spurs point guard Tony Parker.

Parker before Thompson fouled out: 4-of-15 shooting, 12 points, with three turnovers.

Parker after the 6-foot-7 Thompson left: anything he wanted.

Parker, a hair over 6 feet, immediately began driving to the basket, scoring eight points over the final 3:57. In the 14 minutes Thompson sat watching, Parker scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, committing zero turnovers.

Suddenly, Parker was the most effective player on the floor, and the Spurs were revived.

"I was very effective defending him," Thompson said of Parker. "Tony lives in the paint; he's one of the best paint scorers in the league, for a guard.

"It's just frustrating, knowing I could be out there, affecting the game in other ways besides offense. Defensively, I could make it tough on those guys to get easy buckets."

This is where Game 1 was lost. It also could be where future games will be decided.

If Thompson can win his matchup with Parker, then the Warriors can hang with and perhaps beat the Spurs. Jackson praises Klay's long-distance shooting, but the coach also knows the 23-year-old is a pretty good go-to defender.

Thompson's defense is as essential to the Warriors' success as Curry's offense, which put them in position to win Game 1 and is crucial to winning any game in this series.

The Spurs understand this, which is why coach Gregg Popovich invested so many resources in trying to stop Curry. At various times, San Antonio chased Curry with Parker, 6-6 Danny Green, 6-4 Gary Neal, 6-3 Cory Joseph and 6-7 Kawhi Leonard, who seemed to have the most success.

"Kawhi has great length, and Danny Green has great quickness combined with his length," explained Curry, who is 6-3. "They all have different strengths. Tony is just quick in general, so he keeps a body in front of you. Kawhi is probably the toughest."

When Curry gets into a rhythm, the defender is irrelevant. He shoots over shorter guys, goes past bigger guys. And if a big defender gives him too much room, he'll step back and fire from deep.

Curry was the unofficial MVP of their first-round series victory over Denver; the Dubs don't win that series without his memorable shooting. He would have been the MVP of Game 1 had the Warriors held on.

Or, perhaps, co-MVP, for Thompson was scant minutes away from earning a piece of invisible hardware. Those scant minutes were enough for the Warriors to gag away a game they had owned for most of the evening.

I like what Jarrett Jack brings as a third guard. But Curry and Thompson need to be the lead dogs for this team. That will become only more evident with time.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/1montepoole.