LOS ANGELES — As Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr looked at the locker room after Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, the look of exhaustion and disappointment was washed over the entire face of his team.
It’s over — the Warriors’ bid to defend their title ended with a 122-101 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, and they were left sitting with all the questions that would follow.
“To be fair I think this team is ultimately maxed out,” Kerr told reporters after the game. “We’ve been in the playoff picture for most of this year … This is not a championship team.”
That sentiment didn’t just emerge because the Warriors were eliminated, snapping their 28-game playoff streak with at least one road win and 19-game winning streak against Western Conference teams — both NBA records.
The Warriors’ 11-30 road record during the regular season is one reason this team lacks championship DNA. Then there are back-to-back injuries to Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins. The Warriors’ disconnect started the year, and has never fully recovered.
“From training camp to now, it’s just the reality we’ve been living with,” Curry said. “We’re trying to keep things positive and optimistic about what we’re trying to accomplish this year … but there’s also an understanding that it’s not going to be good.”
But Golden State still has faith that playoff time will come — the NBA’s second season.
“We did a really good job of finding something here last month,” Kerr said. “We were about to get back what we had, but we didn’t quite get there.
“No competitor believes [you’re done] until you’re proven you’re not a championship team,” Curry added. “And that’s what losing a playoff series is all about.”
The Warriors’ locker room leading up to Game 6 was the complete opposite of their mood after this. Music blared from a set of portable speakers. The players danced. They are full of life. But they came out of the game with no energy.
The Lakers’ lead grew to 17 points in the first, matching the biggest deficit the Warriors faced in the first quarter of a playoff game under Kerr. They also trailed by 17 in Game 6 of the 2018 Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets. But in that game, they came back to win by 29.
Midway through the first quarter on Friday, something finally clicked for Golden State, and the Warriors went on a 23-10 run. But it is not sustainable. During that stretch, they got close to the Lakers but never got ahead. And by the time they had a chance to make another push, they ran out of steam.
Curry scored 32 points on 11-of-28 shooting, doing everything in his power to extend the series to seven games, but he didn’t get enough help. Donte DiVincenzo was his only support system and, with 16 points, was the only other double-digit scorer. The next highest scorers were Kevon Looney and Draymond Green with nine each.
Klay Thompson scored just eight points, while Jordan Poole had seven and Andrew Wiggins — who is battling a left costal cartilage fracture — added six. Wiggins was also unable to defend LeBron James with the force needed to slow him down.
The Warriors have nothing else to give.
While the series was ultimately lost for the Warriors in Game 6, Kerr said it was decided in Games 1 and 4 — two tight games the Warriors could have had but let slip.
“No competitor believes [you’re done] until you prove you are not a championship team. And that’s what losing a playoff series is all about.”
“I definitely think this team maxed out,” said Green, who agreed with his coach. “This is not a championship team … this is not a championship team as it stands.”
Green said the Warriors must go back to the drawing board this summer to retool and “refigure out” how to get back to championship level.
But the man responsible for building Golden State’s championship roster over the past decade, general manager Bob Myers, has yet to reach a new contract agreement.
And like Myers, Green’s status with the team is unclear. He has a player option waiting for him and told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears that he will take his time to decide his future. But he insisted that he wanted to remain a Warrior.
“That doesn’t mean our core changes,” Green said. “That doesn’t mean our core can’t do it again. … We’re made up of champions.”