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Warriors stunned by epic collapse to end historic season

Game 7 loss to Cleveland leaves Golden State looking for answers

POSTED: Jun 20, 2016 7:54 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Warriors on Series Loss

Steve Kerr, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry address the media following the Game 7 and Finals loss to the Cavaliers.

— And then it was over.

"Yeah," said Steve Kerr, the coach. "Yeah, we're stunned."

"I mean, it sucks," said Draymond Green, the All-Star starting power forward.

"Yeah, it stung," said Stephen Curry, the back-to-back Kia MVP at point guard. "It sucked to watch them celebrate and we wish it could have been us."

It was almost impossible to believe. Not losing, because the Golden State Warriors had been dancing on the ledge for a while, for two series in a row now, to understand that could happen. Losing like this, though, in a way that went so counter to what had been built.

Not scoring for the final 4:38? A championship on the line, three All-Stars on the court and the fun bunch that finished first in the league in Offensive Rating and shooting can't stumble into a basket or even a free throw?

Losing three consecutive games? That hadn't happened in two seasons with Kerr as coach, and then it happens at the worst time possible, in a historically bad way as the first team in NBA Finals history to go from a 3-1 lead to a 4-3 defeat?

With an end to the Oracle Arena magic? The Warriors had two games in Oakland after going up 3-1, plus another in Cleveland (where they won the championship in 2015), and needed one victory at the scene of probably the best home-court advantage in the league, and then lost both? After losing another to Oklahoma City in the previous series, the Western Conference finals?



I thought we were going to take care of business tonight at home, and we just couldn't get it done.

– Warriors coach Steve Kerr

The Warriors -- the Warriors -- stopped scoring and stopped winning at home. That just doesn't happen. They had already stopped playing harder than the opponent at times in the Thunder series, as Kerr had previously noted. And they already endured several stretches this postseason of playing with an unusual lack of poise for a mettled defending champion. On Sunday night, they lost Game 7 to a Cavaliers team that played with more focus and greater energy.

"They felt desperate," key reserve Andre Iguodala said. "I wouldn't say we got complacent, because we were fighting every night. They just gave a little bit better fight than us. It's not over until it's over, and we proved that before. Now the tables have turned and it happened to us."

Now it was really over. Now the tables had turned to where they were on top of the Warriors and a defending champion had lost 93-89, but more than that had lost in ways that once never seemed possible.

The sensation of feeling stunned was easily understandable. Golden State was sure it had been properly hardened by winning three in a row to climb out of the same 3-1 hole against the Thunder. That had to be the preparation possible for The Finals, as the start to the new series proved. Warriors 104, Cavaliers 89 and then Warriors 110, Cavaliers 77, a 2-0 lead without either Splash Brother, Curry or Klay Thompson, scoring more than 18 points, an advantage that reached 3-1 after a split in Cleveland.

That's when the bottom fell out. Green got suspended. Andrew Bogut got hurt. Harrison Barnes got kidnapped and replaced by someone who looked a lot like him but could not hit a shot. Curry got the bright idea to throw a behind-the-back pass along the sideline in the fourth quarter of a close Game 7, a throw that went out of bounds as every possession impacted the outcome. The Cavaliers, LeBron James in particular, seized on the opportunity and pounced to earn the crown in an impressive display Golden State could not slow over the last seven days.

Livingston Sends It Home

Shaun Livingston goes up for the monster mash.

"Yeah," Kerr said. "Yeah, we're stunned. We thought we were going to win. I was extremely confident coming into tonight, especially having Draymond back from the suspension from (Game) 5 and now 7, Game 7, at home. But this is why you can't mess around. Not that we messed around, but this is why every game counts. Game 5 was really the key. That was the turning point of the whole series. We didn't play well enough to win. It was a tough game for us with the circumstances, and I thought they had two guys who played epic games, Kyrie (Irving) and LeBron. And that changed the whole series. But with that said, I thought we were going to take care of business tonight at home, and we just couldn't get it done."

The repeat bid was gone in a dizzying turn of events. Curry and Iguodala were captured afterward watching Cleveland celebrate on the court that had become anything but imposing for visitors, waiting for something resembling calm to congratulate the Cavaliers and feeling the sting in the meantime. Green, on the other hand, went to the locker room, realized once he got there that the Cavs should be congratulated, and walked back out to the court to offer his good wishes to the new champions.

Golden State had lost the game, lost the series and lost the season, no matter how many Warriors tried to say otherwise, tried to say that what happened on a Sunday night that may sting forever in the Bay Area will not diminish the 73 victories as the best regular season in history or the MVP for Curry or the Coach of the Year for Kerr. Everything ended so abruptly.

"I don't know," Curry said when asked how the team should be remembered. "I mean, we had a great regular season. Did something no team's done before. Fell short in the last game of the season. It hurts, man. I mean, that's all I'm really kind of marinating on right now. Just proud of every single guy that stepped foot on the floor for our team this year. It wasn't easy what we accomplished, and it's not an easy pill to swallow what we didn't accomplish. So got to just take the good with the bad. Understand that we hopefully will have many more opportunities to fight for championships and be on this stage because it is what it's all about. Proud of every single one of our guys that helped us get here."

The Warriors talked through the fog of how the Cavaliers deserved to win, an accurate assessment. The Warriors spoke of being in position in the future to claim another title themselves, also a statement based in reality, but this was a lost opportunity of incredible proportions. They had the best regular season ever, an offense, a defense, chemistry, coaching, experience, home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in The Finals, the very loud embrace of Oracle for Game 7, but it didn't matter.

And then it was over.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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