Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr watches as his team hosts the Boston Celtics at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Wednesday. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Warriors’ collapse serves as starting gun to race for top seed

OAKLAND — In their first game back in Oracle Arena since losing Kevin Durant to injury, things were a little bit different for the Golden State Warriors.

Instead of blasting through their opponent, a fourth-quarter collapse by the home team led to a 99-86 loss to the Boston Celtics.

And with that, a new hot take for the people intent on finding the team’s downfall was born.

The Warriors are an average team without KD.

And that might have been proven, if they had lost to an average team.

The Durant-less Dubs aren’t immune to lapses. Those will happen, as head coach Steve Kerr reminded pregame.

“I could tell you that I feel really good about the adjustment period after the last game, but we may lay an egg tonight and I’ll tell you it’s going to take longer,” waxed Kerr. “Who knows?”

Through three quarters, the Warriors led by two and all was well.

But the fourth went about as poorly as it could’ve with Golden State committing seven turnovers and the Celtics hitting big shot after big shot en route to a 27-12 beatdown of a quarter.

“We just got beat, we got beat by a team that had lost two in a row, they were waiting on us and they were ready to play tonight,” Kerr explained.

There are many reasons for the beatdown: The Warriors took just nine free-throw attempts to the Celtics’ 19; Boston scored 24 points off 18 Golden State turnovers; a rarely used rotation (Stephen Curry, Ian Clark, Andre Iguodala, Patrick McCaw and James Michael McAdoo) led to stagnated offense and poor defense, allowing the Celtics to pull away as Draymond Green and Klay Thompson watched from the bench.

And then there was the shooting. The Warriors went 6-for-30, evoking shades of their 5-for-35 night in Chicago, where they lost the game after Durant went down.

But, does a loss against a top-tier Boston team make the Warriors average? Of course not.

They just aren’t the invincible Super Villains many in the Bay Area hoped they’d be after signing Durant.

The Warriors losing three games in a little over a week means the race for the No. 1 seed is officially on, and that’s not a bad thing for Golden State. With the San Antonio Spurs winning Wednesday, the Warriors hold a 1.5 game lead for the top spot in the Western Conference.

The Dubs have two more games against the Spurs left on the schedule, including one on Saturday.

And, instead of going all-in on breaking the regular-season record for wins like last year — when the team exhausted itself emotionally down the stretch — they’re just doing what good teams do at this time of year, fighting for playoff position.

It gets lost in this team’s domination over the last few years, but even great teams can lose to other great teams.

Also, at the end of the long road ahead, there’s the eventual return of a former MVP looming. Which wouldn’t be a bad addition, even for the most average group in the league.

Contact Jacob C. Palmer at jpalmer@sfexaminer.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.

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