The Golden State Warriors are one of the greatest teams in the history of the NBA.

They just gave up an NBA record 31 point second half lead at home in the first round of the playoffs to the eighth seeded Clippers.

Losing a game to an inferior opponent is not a surprise. Golden State’s kind of dominance means they get lax sometimes and give up a game or two in a series where they’re heavily favored. But giving up that kind of lead is insane. They got caught in the gimme trap.

Blowing open a 31 point lead when you’re the better team means game over. Just play around and run out the clock with your bench. You can smile, relax, celebrate, and take the win for granted.

The danger isn’t even so much slipping into the chill mindset. The danger is it’s almost impossible to come back out of it mid-game. Knowing you once had a 31 point lead makes you reinterpret a 15 point lead as bigger than it is when the gap starts to close. Then it’s down to ten, but no big deal. You hit another shot and feel fine. Then single digits. Then two possessions. Then one. By this time, it’s undeniable that you can’t take the game for granted, but it’s too late to flip from victory lap to vicious because now fear has entered. You play tight. Embarrassment looms. You have no upside to winning now – it would still be a little embarrassing it got so close – only downside to losing. Your opponent is loose, freewheeling, all upside.

The Warriors got caught in the trap. Bad.

So now what?

It’s possible this embarrassment is good for them. If they use it. Nothing snaps you into playoff hunger mode like getting walloped.

But it doesn’t always work out this way. It depends how a team responds mentally to the loss.

If you treat it as no big deal, you’re in a dangerous spot. Then again, if you treat it as a really big deal, you are too. The former could mean you’re blinded by pride and still lacking hunger and respect for the game necessary to win. The latter could mean you cede mental territory to your underdog opponent and show that they shook you. You don’t want to be relaxed, and you don’t want to be afraid.

That’s a hard line to straddle. Harder the more successful you are. Overconfidence in your ability to win without trying or fear of losing what you have are impossible to avoid once you’ve achieved greatness. But you can’t indulge them for long. Success is a great reward but a bad teacher.

Will the Warriors once again find that spot between fear and pride? Can they muster the seriousness, learn the lesson, and come back with no desperation or relaxation?

All games are mental games. And while casual fans may find dominant dynasties boring, they are the most interesting thing in sports to me. The mentality needed to stay successful is rarer and harder than what’s needed to get there. Heavily favored teams have to level up their mindset and deal with the demons of success and expectation.

I can’t wait to watch.