Seven games of two increasingly heated rivals trying to impose their wills, overcoming the refs and the off-court drama of Donald Sterling's foolishness that put the series squarely under the national spotlight. It's almost unquestionably a playoff week unlike any that any of these players have experienced.
And in a series full of distraction and anomaly, Game 7 was arguably the most normal (given the players available); the first six games helped to build anticipation and it all came to a near-perfect basketball-as-entertainment crescendo the final act.
Unfortunately, the Warriors came up just short in a 126-121 Game 7 loss to the Clippers at Staples Center.
Did the Warriors make some crucial mistakes, mistakes that have become so routine that all we can do is shake our heads? Sure. Careless turnovers on offense and poor rotations on defense sabotaged a promising start to the most-anticipated game of a day of seventh games in the first round. And ultimately, having played a part in salting away their own lead, the final minutes of the game followed the narrative that most people expected would end the Warriors' season in this series: the Clippers were simply too big for a sometimes-disorganized Warriors defense to stop, outscoring the visitors 62-38 in the paint.
The Clippers' bigs needed to be the biggest, baddest guys on the floor in this game and series -- they sure have been the past few minutes.— Matt Zemek (@mzemek) May 4, 2014
But we have to put that in perspective by acknowledging the fact that they forced a Game 7 without center Andrew Bogut - whose absence was especially noticeable in Games 5 & 7 - gave all they had and fell just short on the road; after a season full of frustration, it's really difficult to feel anything but pride for this team right now and be optimistic about their future.
Of course, there might be changes, or at the very least rumors swirling but we have an entire offseason to play the "what if" game, wonder about Mark Jackson's job status, and whether the regular season was really the last we'll be seeing of #FullSquad - for now, I can do little more but muster a tip of the hat to a team that might not have met the loftiest of preseason expectations but certainly took a step forward.
And the first half might have provided us with a partial glimpse of what type of promise this team has.
The Warriors opened the 1st half on a 19-10 run. The Clippers, in turn, have started the second half on a 19-8 spurt to gain a 3-point lead— GSWStats (@gswstats) May 4, 2014
The first 24 minutes went about as well as you could hope, with the exception of the team shortchanging themselves with turnovers. They got out to a great start with a 19-10 lead. They got Draymond Green going early with three threes in the first half to help spread the defense. Andre Iguodala had some defensive lapses, but hit two key threes to help keep the team from slipping behind the Clippers after a(nother) bench lull. And of course, Steph Curry was awesome, sharing team-high scoring honors with Green (13).
GIF: Steph Curry counts to four http://t.co/OEG0R25297— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) May 4, 2014
The third quarter was horrendous, but they showed the resilience to keep fighting and put themselves in position to win this one down the stretch.
The Warriors had plenty of players step up to give the team a lift at various times - Steph Curry had a game-high 33 points and Jordan Crawford's scoring was significant en route to a playoff career-high 12 points - but for the final Warrior Wonder of the season I just think we have to acknowledge one person in particular.
Warrior Wonder: Draymond Green, playoff career-high 24 points
I could repeat what I've said previously about Green or focus on how far he's come as a second round pick again. But you've already heard me (and maybe someone else you know at this site) talk about Green enough.
Draymond Green's motor this game has been really special, no matter the outcome.— Fast Break (@GSWFastBreak) May 4, 2014
What might make tonight's performance, and this series as whole, unique for him is that he became impossible for national pundits and fans to ignore. He wasn't perfect tonight, but he did everything he could to keep his team in the game. He might not be the leader of this team (yet), but he certainly carries himself like a leader and has gone a long way to establishing himself as the heart and soul when the team is between the lines.
I think we can say, without hesitation or disrespect to the greatness of Steph Curry, that without Draymond Green there is no Game 7 - nobody to contain Blake Griffin in the post, nobody with the versatility to switch and pressure ball handlers, and nobody to make that small ball lineup work the way Green did. With the misfortune of Bogut being unavailable for this series and Jermaine O'Neal being limited tonight, they needed someone to step up to make things work and Green did the trick again even in loss.
I do think there are a lot of questionmarks about this team, whether they undergo a complete overhaul or bring this unit back for another go-round. But like last season, they left us with plenty to be happy about even if the final result left us wanting.
For more on the series, check out our Warriors-Clippers playoff series section.