LOS ANGELES—As Golden State Warriors As coach Steve Kerr searched the locker room after Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, his team’s face showed a look of tiredness and disappointment.
“To be fair, I think this team played their best at the end of the day,” Kerr told reporters after the game. “We barely made the playoffs for most of this year… This isn’t a championship team.”
That sentiment didn’t come first because the Warriors were eliminated, ending their streak of 28 straight playoff streaks with at least one away win and 19 straight wins against Western Conference teams — both NBA records.
The Warriors’ away record of 11-30 during the regular season is one of the reasons this team lacked championship DNA. Added to this were the repeated injuries Stephen Curry And Andrew Wiggins. The breakup the Warriors started the year with never fully recovered from it.
“From training camp to today, it was just the reality we lived in,” Curry said. “We’ve tried to keep positive and upbeat about the things we wanted to achieve this year… but we also recognize that’s not good enough.”
But Golden State still believed in the time of the playoffs – the second NBA season.
“We’ve done a hell of a job finding something here over the last month,” Kerr said. “We came close to taking back what we had, but we didn’t quite make it. We didn’t feel like a championship team all year, but we had the guts and the strength to believe in it.”
“No competitor believes (you’re done) until you’re proven you’re not a championship team,” Curry added. “And that’s what it means to be beaten in a playoff series.”
The Warriors’ locker room before Game 6 was the complete opposite of their mood afterwards. Music blared from portable speakers. The players danced around. They were full of life. Still, they went out of the game without that energy.
The Lakers’ lead increased to 17 points in the first quarter, equaling the largest gap the Warriors had in the first quarter of a playoff game under Kerr. They were also 17 points down in Game 6 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals against the USA Houston Rockets. But in that game they came back and won by 29.
In the middle of the first quarter on Friday, Golden State finally clicked and the Warriors put on a 23-10 run. But it wasn’t sustainable. During that time, they came close to the Lakers but never took the lead. And when they had the opportunity to make another push, they ran out of strength.
Curry scored 32 points on 11 of 28 shots and did everything in his power to stretch the streak to seven games, but he didn’t get nearly enough help. Donte DiVincenzo was his only assist system and the only other double-digit scorer with 16 points. The next highest scorers were Kevin Looney And Draymond Green with nine each.
Clay Thompson only scored eight points Jordan Poole had seven and Andrew Wiggins – who was struggling with a fractured left rib cartilage – added six. Wiggins couldn’t defend himself either Lebron James with enough power to slow him down.
The Warriors had nothing else to give.
While the series was ultimately lost to the Warriors in Game 6, Kerr said it was decided in Games 1 and 4 – two close games the Warriors could have had but missed.
“No competitor believes [you’re done] until it’s proven to you that you’re not a champion team. And that’s what it means to be beaten in a playoff series.”
“I definitely think this team has gotten the most out of it,” said Green, agreeing with his coach. “It wasn’t a championship team … it wasn’t a championship group as it was.”
Green said the Warriors need to get back to the drawing board this summer to retool and “refigure” how to get back to championship level.
But the person responsible for building Golden State’s championship roster over the past decade, general manager Bob Myers, has yet to settle on a new contract agreement.
And like Myers, Green’s status on the team is unclear. He has a player option awaiting him and has told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears he will be taking his time deciding on his future. But he insists that he wants to remain a warrior.
“That doesn’t mean our core is changing,” Green said. “That doesn’t mean our core can’t do it again…we’re made of champions.”