The injuries pile up, and the Warriors’ reign ends
OAKLAND, Calif. — In the end, they were just battered and broken.
And now, they’re beaten.
The Golden State Warriors are champions no more.
The reign ended Thursday night in the last game they’ll ever play at Oracle Arena, one where they entered without Kevin Durant and left without Klay Thompson. The roster depletion was just too taxing, even for warriors like the Warriors to bear, and they lost Game 6 of the NBA Finals 114-110 to the Toronto Raptors.
“What I’ve witnessed as their coach over the last five years is just an incredible combination of talent and character and commitment to each other,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “This just doesn’t happen. A group of guys like this doesn’t come around together and do what they did over the last five years.”
Toronto won the series 4-2, finishing it off a few minutes after Thompson used crutches to hobble out of Oracle and into perhaps an uncertain future. He got hurt in the third quarter, fouled on a dunk attempt and landing awkwardly on his left knee — which buckled in a manner that’s often a telltale sign of big trouble.
He left the game, then limped out of the tunnel and returned to the court — drawing raucous cheers — so he could shoot his free throws, allowing him to possibly return after being evaluated. He made both shots, the Warriors then took a foul a few seconds later and Thompson retreated toward the locker room again. A few minutes later, the word came: Thompson was done for the night.
The reign was done not long afterward.
“It’s kind of hard to talk about,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “It’s a tough way to go out … but the story is not over yet.”
In terms of winning, no team has ever had a five-year run like the one the Warriors put together since the hiring of Kerr in 2014.
— They’ve won 77 percent of their games, including playoffs.
— They won a staggering 399 times. That’s 100 more than second-place San Antonio has over the last five years.
— They went to the NBA Finals five straight years, the second-longest streak in NBA history. Boston had a 10-year streak of finals trips, back when the NBA had eight and nine teams. The Warriors are dealing with a 30-team league.
— They won three titles in that span. The only other franchises to get three or more rings in five years are San Antonio, Chicago, the Los Angeles Lakers (also done when the team was in Minneapolis), and Boston.
“I could not be any luckier as a coach to be with these guys every day and to watch them compete,” Kerr said. “And, boy, do they compete.”
Golden State still had a chance, even in the final seconds. Curry missed a 3-pointer with about 6 seconds left that would have given the Warriors the lead. The actual ending came several minutes later after long delays following a technical on Golden State for calling a time-out it didn’t have and then a long review of a foul on Toronto’s inbounds pass with less than a second left.
The Raptors didn’t mind waiting.
And for the Warriors, it just prolonged the inevitable.
Thompson finished with 30 points, even missing the fourth quarter. Andre Iguodala scored 22 points, Curry had 21 and Green finished with 11 points, 19 rebounds and 13 assists.
It wasn’t enough.
“We continued to fight,” Green said.
It was a sad farewell to Oracle for so many reasons. The 2,070th and final game in that building that the Warriors called home for 47 seasons. The first game since Durant had surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles. The last loss of the season. The end of the quest for three straight championships. And if all that emotion wasn’t enough, now there’s fear for Thompson’s future.
Thompson will be a free agent on June 30. The Warriors have said they want to keep him, and they likely still will. But if he has a major knee issue now that would be on top of the injury that will likely keep Durant — another probable free-agent-in-waiting, maybe the biggest domino that will fall this summer to start an expected player-movement bonanza — off the court for all of next season.
The irony with Thompson’s injury is he doesn’t get hurt. Thompson one of the most durable players in the league. He strained a hamstring earlier in these finals and missed one game. He may have done a number on his knee on Thursday and was still lobbying to stay in the game.
He was gone before the Raptors’ celebration. When the Warriors start play next season at the new Chase Center in San Francisco, there will be no banner to raise or rings to hand out. An era is over. A new one will have to begin.
“I think everybody thinks it’s kind of the end of us,” Green said. “But that’s just not smart. We’re not done yet.”