The winningest season in NBA history ended without a championship Sunday, and try as they did, the Golden State Warriors could not set aside their sorrow, frustration and shock.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through in mysports career,” Warriors 3-point sharpshooter Klay Thompson said. “It’s difficult to process. It feels like a failure. It stings more than anything I’ve gone through in my career.”
The Warriors suffered the worst choke in NBA Finals history, becoming the first team to squander a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and lose the title after falling 93-89 Sunday to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Everybody was obviously just sad, just down. They are really bummed out,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re disappointed that it didn’t go our way at the end, but that’s life. We’ve had so many moments of joy together, and it was like, wow, we’re actually having a moment of sorrow.”
Golden State, which beat Cleveland in last year’s finals, had the winningest regular season in NBA history at 73-9, one win better than the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, and 88 total wins including the playoffs, also breaking a mark made by the Michael Jordan-led Bulls.
“What we accomplished — I don’t know if that will ever be done again,” Thompson said. “Lucky for us, the sun comes up tomorrow. We’re all very competitive and this is gut-wrenching. We all feel sick. We’re not going to throw a pity party. We’re going to be better from this. I promise you that.”
– Curry: ‘It will haunt me’ –
Stephen Curry won his second consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player award and led the league in scoring with 30.1 points a game, hitting a record 402 3-pointers.
“It hurts,” Curry said. “It wasn’t easy what we accomplished and it’s not an easy pill to swallow what we didn’t accomplish.
“I had some good moments, but didn’t do enough to help my team win, especially down the stretch. It will haunt me for a while.”
The team’s first three-game losing streak since November 2013 came in the finals and cost them the championship that might have made it the greatest season in NBA history.
“We’re stunned. We thought we were going to win,” Kerr said. “I was extremely confident. We had a phenomenal season. We did something that’s never been done before. Couldn’t finish it off.
“It’s not about learning anything or life lessons or anything like that. The only thing it is about is getting better as a team.”
At the end, Curry could only watch a tearful LeBron James celebrate with the trophy and wonder what more he might have done in a game where nine months of work toward a title went down to the last seconds.
“I settled too much. That’s something that is tough to swallow with the opportunity we had,” Curry said. “It will be a good image for us over the summer and all next season to remember so we can come back stronger.
“Obviously the biggest lesson is nothing’s ever guaranteed. You can’t take this stage for granted and it’s extremely hard to win a championship.”
Draymond Green, who scored a game-high 32 points, had said the Warriors would have won game five had he not been suspended for accumulated playoff flagrant fouls.
“I learned a lot about myself as a man, as a teammate, as a player. I learned a lot that will help me for the rest of my life,” Green said, adding “I won’t put myself in that position again.”
He sees the season success and playoff flop as separate things.
“All that stuff is still there. We did all those things. It has been a great season,” Green said. “Everybody will say, ‘They won 73 but they didn’t win a championship.’ We didn’t. But I think this team accomplished a lot of great things. I don’t look at this entire season as a failure.”
But Green is far from putting the finals collapse behind him.
“I’m not over the loss,” he said. “I’ll probably never be over that.” – Agence France-Presse