[Editor’s Note: This article is the first of a two-part series exploring the post-season journey of the Golden State Warriors from the perspective of one of their great fans. Lucas Dodson bleeds blue and yellow. Fortunately, as he contemplates a long offseason, he also loves the Giants. Following this article, Lucas gives us a second piece that looks at where Golden State needs to, and might, go in the offseason. Thank you, Lucas, for a set of impassioned articles.]
It is a warm June day. I am waking up in a haze as the “unbeatable” Warriors flopped in the final minutes of a winner-take-all Game 7, which led to the Cavaliers bringing the city of Cleveland their first major sports championship since 1964 when the great Jim Brown brought his Browns a championship.
The 2015-16 NBA season was one led by the storylines brought by the Golden State Warriors. Fresh off of an NBA Championship, the Warriors started the season 24-0 shattering the previous record of the best start to an NBA season, a record that previously stood at 15-0. As the season progressed, the Dubs ended up with 3 NBA All-Stars, MVP Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. The season concluded with the Warriors winning a record 73 games, breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls previous record of 72 wins. Then, the rollercoaster ride playoffs came.
In Game 1 of the first round, Steph Curry didn’t return after the first half with an apparent ankle injury. The Warriors had a 2-1 lead in the series going into Game 4, where Curry returned, and before the first half came to a close, Curry slipped on an apparent wet spot on the floor, spraining his MCL. Curry did not play for the rest of the series, a 4-1 defeat of the Houston Rockets. Next up were the young Portland Trailblazers, led by superstar point guard Damian Lillard, and fresh off of a 6 game series victory over the badly injured Los Angeles Clippers. Steph Curry was still sidelined with the MCL sprain, but the Warriors handled the first two games of the series to take a 2-0 lead. When Curry returned, the Warriors were once again up 2-1 in a Game 4. Curry was scheduled to play limited minutes off the bench, behind Shaun Livingston. But when Livingston was ejected after back to back technical fouls, Curry had to step up, and step up he did, as he scored 40 points, including a record 17 points in overtime, giving the Dubs a Game 4 victory, 132-125. Klay Thompson played out of his mind in Curry’s absence, scoring efficiently with a 58% true shooting percentage, one of the main highlights in a wild postseason. The Warriors won Game 5 125-121 and were on to the Western Conference Finals, to face Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were coming off beating the juggernaut San Antonio Spurs in 6 games.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the Dubs held a double digit lead going into the half, but the Thunder stormed all the way back to take Game 1 in the hostile Oracle arena, 108-102. After winning Game 2 by a convincing 27 points, the Warriors traveled to Oklahoma City to play two pivotal games in Chesapeake Energy Arena, nicknamed “Loud City” for its raucous and deafening environment. The Warriors were slaughtered in Games 3 and 4 putting them in an insurmountable 3-1 hole. In Game 5 the Warriors handled the Thunder’s best effort, and won, cutting the series lead to 3-2. Game 6 came and Klay Thompson played maybe the best game of his career, with his first 40 point playoff game, leading the Warriors to a Game 6 victory, 108-101 sending the series back to Oracle all tied up at 3 a piece. In Game 7, despite being down by 13 in the second quarter, the Warriors stormed back, and won, 96-88, sending them to the NBA Finals to match up against the Cavaliers for a second straight year.
In Game 1 of the Finals, Curry and Klay Thompson couldn’t get it going, but Shaun Livingston had the best game of his career, scoring 20 points and giving the Warriors a 15 point victory. In Game 2, the Splash Brothers got their groove back, and the Warriors blew out the Cavs for a second straight game giving them a 2-0 series lead, sending the Bay Area into frenzy. In Game 3, the Cavs came out with their A-Game, obliterating the Dubs by 30 to cut the lead to 2-1. But in Game 4, after a shaky first half, the Warriors stayed in it and eventually came out on top, winning the game and taking a 3-1 series lead, and with a chance to close it out in Oracle. But after the game, the NBA reviewed a play involving LeBron James and Draymond Green where James steps over a grounded Green, and out of anger towards the disrespect thrown at him, Draymond slapped LeBron in his family jewels causing the NBA to give him a flagrant 1, which put him over the limit for flagrant points, suspending him one game, which was Game 5. In Game 5, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving scored 41 points each to steal a win from the Warriors in Oracle. In Game 6, with Draymond Green back, the Dubs found themselves down 31-11 after the conclusion of the first quarter the Warriors however, kept chipping into the lead but LeBron James was officially too much to handle, scoring 41 for the second straight game. Then it all came down to Game 7, the Warriors held a 49-42 lead after the second quarter but the Cavs came to play in the second half, eventually cutting it to a one point lead heading into the fourth quarter 76-75. In the fourth, no one could score until Kyrie Irving hit a 3 pointer with Steph Curry draped all over him, to give the Cavs a 3 point lead with 53.3 seconds remaining. Two possessions in a row where no one could get free for a shot led to the season concluding, and the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the 2016 NBA Finals, being the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, after the Warriors didn’t score for the last 5 or so minutes.
Being a season ticket holder in the crowd for Game 7, I can’t put into words how devastating the loss felt to me.