The Golden State Warriors season started in a place they played so well in all year, with a home win against the Los Angeles Lakers. And it ended in a place they played so horrible in all year, with a road loss against a Lakers team wearing the same jerseys, but looking very different.
In between there were highs and lows. There were plenty of brilliant and memorable moments, but for a team dynastic that has defined the last decade of NBA basketball, the lows were far more prevalent than the highs.
And so it felt fitting that the season ended that way. There were highs, such as the Dubs buckling down to almost entirely erase a 17-point deficit that the Lakers built in the early minutes. But there were mostly lows. The shots that have come to define the Warriors never fell, with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combining to shoot just 6-for-26 from three-point range. The highs of the relentless offensive rebounding were met by the lows of more missed shots. The highs of forcing turnovers were met by the lows of low-percentage shots. The highs of runs that cut the deficit were met by the lows of LeBron James barreling down the court in transition with athleticism the Warriors simply couldn’t match.
They ended the first quarter on a 16-4 run to get within five, and made it a single-possession game early in the second quarter. But the first half ended in brutal fashion. With the Warriors trailing by seven, Thompson airballed a three, Donte DiVincenzo’s putback attempt was blocked by Anthony Davis, and Austin Reaves made a 55-footer at the buzzer to make it a 10-point game.
You didn’t know it then, or maybe you did, but it was over then. The third quarter started with Reaves missing a three, the Lakers getting the offensive rebound, and Reaves reloading for another three. The Lakers pushed it to 16, then the Warriors answered. Then the Lakers pushed it to 17, then the Warriors answered. Then the Lakers pushed it to 18, then the Warriors answered. Then the Lakers pushed it to 19, and the answer never really arrived.
As the Warriors took a 14-point deficit into the fourth quarter, the broadcast informed you that Golden State was 0-27 on the road this year when trailing after the third quarter. It was simply that kind of season.
At the end of the day, the Warriors flashed more ability than the skeptics gave them credit for as they stumbled their way through the season, making it out of the first round and putting up a fight in the second round. But they also never flashed the composure or sustained excellence that the optimists thought they still had in them as the defending champs.
As the fourth quarter deficit swung past the 20-point mark, and eventually Steve Kerr raised the white flag, you reminisced on the season that was. The road losses that piled up. The youngsters that never really developed. The role players that never quite fit right.
And facing an Andrew Wiggins hampered by an extremely painful injury, James reminded us all that even in year 20 he can take over a basketball game like very few.
The Warriors lost 122-101. The Warriors lost 4-2.
The season is over. The championship defense is over.
Now we wait to see if the dynasty is over.