It's too bad, because Golden State's meeting with the Detroit Pistons two-time NBA finalists and owners of the league's best record on Friday night sure had that vibe.
It felt like a litmus-test game when Michigan native Jason Richardson unleashed an incandescent performance against his hometown team, dropping a season-high 36 points, plus six rebounds and two blocks.
It sounded like a yardstick game when the sellout crowd of 19,596 on hand at the Arena roared in celebration on back-to-back 3-pointers by Mike Dunleavy, or in response to Richardson's monstrous dunk that gave the Warriors a two-point lead with less than four minutes remaining.
And it most definitely seemed like a barometer of the Warriors' status when the Pistons squeezed out a four-point lead in the final minute, then coolly hung on to secure a 106-103 victory.
The outcome, which wasn't assured until Derek Fisher's last-second 3-pointer crashed off the backboard, the front iron and then bounced harmlessly away, dropped Golden State to 0-5 this season against teamswith better records and removed them from the ranks of teams that hadn't lost two consecutive games this year.
"It would have been a great
The Warriors were happy to welcome back Murphy and the similarly afflicted Adonal Foyle, who played past his season average in minutes to put up eight boards and six points against the beefy Detroit front line.
Even that, however, wasn't enough to combat the depth of the Pistons, who got 29 points from Chauncey Billups, 22 from both Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace and 15 more from Tayshaun Prince.
The Warriors held a six-point lead tied for their biggest of the game when Dunleavy sank his second straight 3-pointer with 32.3 seconds left in the third quarter. But the Pistons fashioned a 10-2 run over the next four minutes to go back in front, 82-80, on Carlos Arroyo's only bucket of the game. During that time frame, the Warriors missed five shots and turned the ball over once on an offensive foul.
"We executed, we were patient, we had good tempo," Montgomery said. "Then all of a sudden we were shooting shots out of context. ... If we had just stayed with what we were doing, I thought we could have had what we wanted."
Despite the cold snap, the Warriors came back and began trading body blows with the 2004 NBA champions. Richardson came through time and again with his 13 fourth-quarter points, giving the Warriors the lead on three separate occasions.
The last of those came at the 2:55 mark, when Richardson hit a nine-foot floater from the left side of the lane over Hamilton for a 94-92 advantage. The former Michigan State star had his best shooting game of the season, going 15-for-26 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the line in what seemed like a personal mission.
Wallace sank two free throws to tie the score, then gobbled up Baron Davis' attempted kick-out pass to Murphy to help create a layup for Billups and give the Pistons the lead.
After trading misses, the Warriors had another chance to tie things up, but the possession that ensued was a disaster, beginning with a 16-foot miss by Davis, followed by a missed tip try by Foyle, and finally ending with Ben Wallace swatting a final 3-foot attempt by Davis, who finished 5-for-18 from the floor.
Billups scored at the other end on another finger roll for a four-point bulge. Even though the Warriors scored their next four times down the court, Detroit got clutch free throw shooting from Hamilton and Billups and critical buckets from Prince and Ben Wallace, who snuck behind the Golden State defense for a jam with 5.4 seconds left for the final margin.
The Warriors, with no timeouts remaining, inbounded to Fisher, who fired from 31 feet and missed.
"We feel like that's a game we can win," Montgomery said. "We've got to get to the point where we do win these."