There was a point in the third quarter of the Warriors-Spurs game Tuesday night when TV cameras caught Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut on the bench. Steph was chewing his nails, Bogut appeared to be in discomfort, and the Dubs were trailing by 11.
The Warriors were trying to play catch-up behind the offense of rookie forward Harrison Barnes and veteran guard Jarrett Jack.
Moreover, they were hoping to get back into the game with the interior defense of heavy-legged Richard Jefferson and one-legged David Lee and foul-prone rookie Draymond Green.
Though each has had his moments, the sight of this particular lineup was a perfectly good time to conclude the Warriors would lose Game 5 of this Western Conference semifinal.
San Antonio went on for a 109-91 victory, taking a 3-2 lead and putting the Warriors one game away from elimination.
The Curry-Bogut snapshot was a fitting illustration of how the Warriors have come full circle. After a surprisingly good regular season and some incredible performances in the playoffs, they on Tuesday were back where they were when the season began last October.
Their postseason run hanging in the balance, they're back to being held captive by the fragile physical states of Curry and Bogut.
Bogut hobbled off in the first half, having tweaked his left ankle. The 7-foot center returned in the second half but was no more effective than he had been earlier.
Bogut has been such a force throughout the postseason, blocking and altering shots and defending the paint. Sensing weakness, the Spurs attacked, racing to the rim at every opportunity.
They were, for the most part, successful.
San Antonio was even more successful going at Curry. They knew he was hobbling on that tender left ankle, and they punished him. They forced him to move on defense. They crowded him offense. It drained him.
Curry did not blame his ankle, saying he was "terrible." He was. But his wheels clearly are not in working order.
This is not to suggest the Spurs have solved the puzzle of defending Curry, or that they will dominate the Warriors in Game 6. Nor is this to suggest Curry and Bogut can't somehow recover by Thursday and submit a couple marvelous performances, sending the Spurs to defeat and pushing the series to a Game 7 in San Antonio.
No, this is to suggest the Warriors are up against it like they haven't been at any time this postseason. Their most important players are wearing down, and it shows. It will be difficult to win two straight against a Spurs team accustomed to the suffocating air of the playoffs.
Barnes' evolution is, undoubtedly, the single-most reason to anticipate the team's possibilities for next season.
Looking at their overall health and their latest response to San Antonio's relentless defensive tactics, I'm not sure they have much more to give.