The Golden State Warriors' furious 73-win campaign ended with a spectacular implosion of motion and emotion. There was no catharsis, just riveting action and inaction for 48 minutes. Oracle Arena teetered on celebration for 44 minutes, until everyone collectively realized the Cleveland Cavaliers weren't going away. And then Kyrie Irving hit a three pointer that went unmatched and the Warriors went quietly into the night.
The offense stagnated in the continued absence of Stephen Curry being Curry-ish these past two series. Not enough points to match a sluggish Cleveland attack. Like a long-distance sprinter gassing out three feet from the finish line, the 88-win Warriors crawled, on hands and knees, through the final moments of a monumental season.
A disappointing conclusion to a story worth reading for the journey alone.
The death of these Warriors will be analyzed tirelessly until the endtimes: did the Cavaliers slay the beast, or was it the attrition of 73 wins and the Oklahoma City Thunder series? Or was it the vanishing act of Harrison "Houdini" Barnes? It's interconnected with the fall of Stephen Curry, but was Curry just injured? (Probably). Draymond Green's one-game suspension in the last game the Warriors fielded a full roster (including center Andrew Bogut) was pivotal, as well.
The truth is it took all of the above, including an opportunistic Cleveland Cavaliers, to slay the beast. Extenuating factors collided (and Kiki colluded) to stop the Warriors in their tracks. Or maybe it's just universal yin-yang: the Warriors ripped off three straight wins to win in Cleveland last year, just as the Cavaliers ripped off three straight wins to clinch it in Oakland.
Such is sports; a rotating game of musical chairs for the pinnacle. The Warriors have bowed out of the spotlight, for now. They lost themselves in the past two series, but they have an offseason to re-find their identity on offense.
The requiem for this year's Warriors isn't as saccharine as last year's swan song. It doesn't smell like champagne and it doesn't sound like laughter. Curry and the Warriors ventured further than any other team, even Jordan's Bulls, ever did; only to find out that it wasn't far enough.
After the final buzzer sounded on opening night, I recapped the Warriors' win over the New Orleans Pelicans. I asked: "Was it everything you ever wanted?"
I can answer my own question now, eight months and over one hundred games later: no. Not quite. One quarter short.