Steph Curry sat in a chair in front his locker, head down in his hands. To his left, Harrison Barnes slumped forward with a towel draped over his head. A few feet away, amid a group of cameras and reporters, Andre Iguodala tried to make sense of the Warriors’ fall.
“It was meant for them to win,” the veteran forward said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Nine days before, the Warriors had taken a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, one win from securing a second consecutive championship. Sunday night, their 93-89 loss at Oracle Arena concluded a stunning collapse, as the Warriors became the first team not to close out a 3-1 Finals lead.
“They felt desperate,” Iguodala said of the Cavaliers. “I wouldn’t say we got complacent, because we were fighting every night. They just gave a little bit better fight than us.”
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The Warriors themselves had rallied from down 3-1 to beat the Thunder in the Western Conference finals. Before that series, they had not lost consecutive games all season. Before Sunday, they had never, in two seasons under coach Steve Kerr, lost three games in a row.
“Give us three games to win one, we expect to win, any one of them,” center Festus Ezeli said. “We just never got it going, never got in the flow of things.”
What flow there was ceased completely when it mattered most, as the Warriors failed to score for the final 4 minutes, 39 seconds of Game 7.
“That game was right there for us, 89-89,” said guard Klay Thompson, his eyes red and voice lowered. “They made big plays; we didn’t. It’s just difficult to process right now.”
After Golden State lost Game 6, Thompson had stated his belief that if the Warriors were to fall short of a title, despite a regular season that set myriad records in wins and scoring, “we’d feel like we failed.”
“Obviously, it feels like a failure right now,” Thompson said Sunday. “It stings more than anything I’ve gone through in my career. But what we accomplished, I don’t know if that will ever be done again. And we’ll learn from this.”
Thompson made a point of congratulating the Cavaliers on their comeback, noting he had not remained on the floor to shake any of their hands. As the final buzzer sounded and the Cavaliers formed a mob near midcourt, most of the Warriors filed quickly into the tunnel to their locker room.
Curry, the league MVP, stayed sitting at the end of the Warriors’ bench. Then he walked slowly onto the floor and exchanged hugs with Cavaliers Richard Jefferson and Kyrie Irving. Iguodala stayed on the court as well, and as the Cavaliers’ celebration continued, the two Warriors stood there watching, workers assembling the stage for the impending trophy presentation near their feet.
“I think we’ve obviously been on the other side of the situation last year, and know how great a feeling that is when you accomplish your goal,” Curry said.
“It stung. It (stunk) to watch them celebrate, and we wish that would have been us. But at the end of the day, you congratulate them for accomplishing what they set out to do, and it will be a good image for us over the summer and all next season so we can come back stronger.
“That’s all you can do.”