As the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
Tonight, they did.
The Warriors’ magical run through the postseason came to a close tonight after falling to the Spurs 94-82 in Game 6. With the victory, San Antonio closed out the series 4-2, and is now headed on to the Western Conference Finals where they’ll face the Memphis Grizzlies for the right to advance to the NBA Finals. And while the series ultimately didn’t go the way the Warriors wanted, all is not lost. Yes, things seem morose now, but let’s not forget that in order to lose something valuable, you have to be put in a position to possess it in the first place. The Warriors did that this season, and they have themselves to thank.
In brief, Game 6 was like the sequel to Game 5, except they had the same outcome. San Antonio got out to an early lead with a couple runs that spanned the first half, and that ultimately proved the difference as the Warriors kept climbing back, but were never quite able to overcome the differential. Down by seven at halftime, the Warriors played even with the Spurs in the third quarter, hoping they had enough left in the tank to pull out the victory in the fourth. They came close, down three with less than three minutes remaining, but it was not to be. The Spurs nailed a couple of backbreaking three-pointers, while a couple Warriors 3-point attempts rattled out, and that, as they say, was that.
Yes, the series came to an end tonight, but that’s not when the Warriors lost it. For the most part, they played a very good series, but proved a step too slow or a shot too flat in critical moments throughout the six highly competitive games, and that ultimately proved the difference. Certainly, you could point to the disastrous letdown in the final minutes of the fourth quarter of Game 1 that allowed the Spurs to steal the opening victory as the turning point, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. It would have been a key win had they managed to hold on, especially considering they went on to win Game 2 in San Antonio, but there’s no guarantee the rest of the series would have played out as it did had that occurred, and at that point, you’re just dealing in hypotheticals. The truth is, no single game lost the series. Golden State lost because San Antonio proved to be the better team, and made the adjustments necessary to put their talent in a position to win. And frankly, there’s no shame in that.
Yes, the season is over, but the work, however, is not. Now the Warriors will have the entire offseason to reflect on and learn from their newfound playoff experience, and that may prove to be as valuable an opportunity as any, should they take advantage of it.
It’s difficult to overstate just how impressive of a season the Warriors just completed. The ultimate goal will always be to win an NBA Championship, and while that is the correct and honorable achievement to strive for, failure to attain it does not rule out success altogether. Let’s not forget that when this season began, only the most diehard Warriors fans would have predicted them to make the playoffs, and even fewer would have given them the slightest chance at winning an actual playoff series. But if there’s been one theme to this incredible season, it’s this: the Warriors don’t care if you’re a believer. They’re going to turn you into one whether you like it or not.
In what seemed like an endless sequence of franchise firsts and record-breaking performances, the Warriors shined when they could have easily crumbled. From Brandon Rush’s season-ending knee injury in the home opener, to Andrew Bogut’s infrequent availability, to David Lee’s “season-ending” hip flexor tear in the first game of the playoffs…this Warriors team faced adversity all year long. But that didn’t stop them. Nope, they accepted the challenge, stayed the course, and made believers out of all of us. Perhaps most importantly to Warriors’ fans, they proved beyond a doubt that this is a different (and much better) kind of Warriors’ team. And not only that, but a new era of Golden State basketball.
If you’re going to look into the bright future this team has, make sure you put on some sunglasses. For a franchise that has seemed to get the short end of every stick and have every bounce go the other way for the better part of four decades, the Warriors conclude this season in a better position with a more talented roster than they’ve had at any time in nearly 40 years. There may be a limit to just how good they can be, but at this point, you’d be hard pressed to define one. From Stephen Curry’s rise to superstardom, to David Lee’s All-Star selection, to Klay Thompson’s emergence, to Andrew Bogut’s arrival, to the development of the Warriors’ rookie trifecta…there are so many good stories to tell, the hardest part is figuring out where to begin. And while we’ll spend the next several days highlighting those in greater detail, we can resign ourselves now to knowing that the Warriors had their most successful season since 1977. And that’s something everybody involved can and should be extremely proud of.
Losing will always hurt, particularly the further you advance and the closer you get to the ultimate goal. But after all, that’s what this game is all about. The Warriors treated us to some fantastic basketball this season, and watching them grow from a collection of underestimated unknowns into a potent and feared force has been tremendously entertaining. They played with a passion and unity that we have not seen in quite some time, and laid a tremendous foundation for future success. This team believes in one another. They believe in their coach, and they believe in their outstanding fans.
They’ve come quite a long way this season, but the journey is not over yet.
Not by a longshot, actually. It’s just getting started.