LOS ANGELES — Whoops, the cheers, the music and the rousing soundtrack of “Happy Birthday” rang out loud inside the Lakers locker room. Outside Golden State’s locker room, there was silence as those inside assessed what had gone wrong this season.
The noise goes to the winner. Losers have an unusually early and bad vacation.
Defending champion Golden State’s freewheeling, 3-point-center style of play changed the NBA and made Stephen Curry a household name. But on Friday night, the team fell short in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals, the last time the team failed to hit deep shots.
It marked the first time the West defeated Golden State in the playoffs during its dynasty run that began in 2015 with the first of four championships led by Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But this season has been one of the toughest in the past decade, with key players absent for long periods, a stuttering road win streak, young players struggling, and a fallout from Green punching a teammate, Jordan Poole, before the season. started
“This is not a championship team,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said after Game 6, which the Lakers won, 122-101. “If we had, we would have moved on. So you can look at the year as a whole and see all the ups and downs, and all kinds of things happened and adversity. But our team stayed together and competed until the end and had a good run.
But “pretty good” has long been below Golden State standards, given Curry’s status as widely regarded as the best shooter in NBA history. Now his team will have to fight their way back to Earth. It’s the basketball equivalent of facing death.
“You’re disappointed and Shell is shocked that it’s over,” Curry said. “Every season you put a lot in, but coming off last year, you try to defend us and give us a chance to keep going. It’s a tough way to end the season.
The series against the Lakers is one of the most anticipated playoff matchups in years, with the Lakers facing off against star LeBron James for the first time since the 2018 NBA Finals when James was with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The series ultimately didn’t match the hype, as the Lakers blew four of five games after a thrilling win in Game 1. Curry and Thompson struggled on Friday, shooting a woeful 14 for 47 from the field. Thompson, who has made just three baskets in each of the past three games, said it was “probably the worst shooting streak I’ve had in a long time.”.”
Golden State now faces an uncertain summer; Curry called it “uncharted territory.” With one of the most expensive rosters in the league and a new collective bargaining agreement aimed at reining in high spenders, Golden State will try to cut costs. It could be a complete turnaround for the team, which has gone from a rudderless middle-of-the-road franchise under Curry to one of the most valuable financially over the past decade.
“For us, it’s an opportunity to take stock of where we’re at and have hope that we can come back and get back to this level next year,” Curry said.
It would help if they got off to a great start. This season, Green punched fourth-year guard Poole in the face during training camp. TMZ posted the video to Punch, which revealed the inner conflict of a franchise known for continuity and harmony.
“Every season is made up of events. Some are great, some are not,” Green said after Friday’s game. “For this team, there were a lot of not-so-good events that were very public and, you know, it’s not something you usually do. So the world knows the tough times for this team.
Now Green’s career is at a turning point. A four-time All-Star, he has a player option next year and is expected to test free agency. Green had one of his own Best seasons this year, but he turns 34 next March, and Golden State may be holding out on giving him a max contract. Green has shown a penchant for impulsive behavior, such as punching the ball or racking up technical fouls, for which he ranked second in the league during the regular season. The resolution of his contract is the key domino of a summer reboot.
“I want to be a warrior for the rest of my life,” Green said Friday. “I want to ride with the same guys I’ve been riding with.”
This season has been a slow one for Golden State. “It felt like we were swimming upstream from the start,” Kerr said.
Golden State started the season 3-7. It ended at 44-38 for West’s sixth ace and one of those Worst road record in the league, at 11-30. Andrew Wiggins, a key contributor to last season’s title run, missed more than half of the regular season due to injury and an undisclosed personal issue. Thompson, a five-time All-Star, has struggled to find his shot through the first third of the season and has been slow on defense after two major injuries in recent years.
If the 33-year-old Thompson had doubts about his future in Golden State, or whether the team could win again, he didn’t show it Friday night. His contract expires after next season.
“I can tell you, we gave it everything we had,” he said. “But I believe there is more greatness in our future.”
Golden State must decide what to do with the young players it tried to build while chasing a championship — a path criticized for placing too much of a burden on the 35-year-old Curry. Poole, 23, struggled mightily in the playoffs and Golden State signed him. A four-year contract extension It was worth up to $140 million in October. Other young players, Jonathan Cuminga and Moses Moody, both 20, have been in and out of the lineup all season.
Also, the signing of Bob Myers, the team’s general manager for the past decade, This year ends. It may fall to a different architect to take the dynasty to its next level.
If there’s one bright spot for Golden State this season, it’s its magnetic figure: Curry. He played some of the best basketball in his career – which means some of the best basketball anyone has ever played. In the first round of the playoffs, Golden State faced the third-seeded Kings in Sacramento for a decisive Game 7. Curry scored 50 points — his most in a Game 7 — and hit seven 3-pointers. It was a reminder of the magic that made his teams so great.
But Curry said Friday that reaching the conference semifinals was not “a moral victory.”
“There’s a lot of pride in what we’ve achieved, but there’s also an understanding that it’s not enough..”