Reigning champion Golden State’s freewheeling, three-point-oriented style of play is the N.B.A. This made Stephen Curry a household name. But on Friday night, the team failed to make one last effective deep shot while kneeling the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals.
The Lakers won Game 6, 122–101.
In 2018 N.B.A. It was one of the most anticipated playoff matchups in years, with Lakers stars LeBron James and Curry facing off for the first time. Finals, when James was with the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, the series ultimately did not live up to the hype and imploded in Games 2, 3 and 5 after thrilling Lakers wins to open the series.
In Game 6, Golden State looked in the lurch from the start. The Lakers started the game on a 24–9 run. Golden State’s Klay Thompson missed 9 of his first 10 shots. Curry missed 4 of his first 5 games. Then, just before halftime, a desperation shot from Lakers guard Austin Reeves sent the Crypto.com Arena roaring and gave Los Angeles a 10-point lead at the break. In the third quarter, James took the lead in expanding the lead to 19 points, and the Lakers took firm control in the fourth quarter. Golden State never recovered.
“You’re disappointed and surprised that it’s over,” Curry said. “I put a lot into it every season, but like I went out last year, I’m trying to play defense and give us a chance to improve. It’s a tough way to end the season.
That means the Golden State dynasty, which has won four titles since 2015 behind Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green, is coming to an end, or at least is on the way to change. With one of the most expensive rosters in the league and a new collective bargaining agreement in place to prevent overspending, Golden State will look to keep costs down. This could be a turning point for the team, considering they have gone from a ragged midway franchise to one of the most financially valuable franchises over the past decade under Curry’s leadership.
But this season has been a slog for Golden State. They finished 44–38 as the sixth seed in the Western Conference and one of the worst road records in the league at 11–30.
But there were moments when the team was able to unearth an older exhibit.
Curry had one of the best games of his career in the first round of the playoffs. Golden State faced the No. 3 seed Kings in Sacramento for a deciding Game 7. Curry scored a record 50 points in Game 7 and made seven 3-pointers. It was a reminder of the magic that had made his team so great.
Against the seventh-seeded Lakers in the conference semifinals, Golden State had home-court advantage. However, losing the first leg at home set the tone for the series. Games 2 and 5 both featured Golden State dominance at home, but Game 4 turned the series.
Ultimately, it was too much for Golden State.
The series served as a wake-up call. The thing is, it’s hard to stay on top for long.
Green, who was voted a four-time All-Star, is expected to take the FA test as they have player option next year. He’s had his best season this year, but he’ll be 34 next March and Golden State may be hesitant to offer him a max contract. Green showed a propensity for impulsive behavior during training camp, including punching teammate Jordan Poole, and had the second most technical fouls in the league during the regular season.
Thompson, a five-time All-Star, still has moments where he looks like one of the NBA’s best shooters. However, after suffering two major injuries at the age of 33, he has been very slow in defense. His contract expires after next season.
Golden State also has to decide what to do with the young players it is trying to develop in its pursuit of a championship. Notably, Poole, a 23-year-old guard, struggled in the playoffs, which isn’t an ideal scenario as Golden State signed a four-year contract extension worth up to $140 million in October. Other 20-year-old players such as Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody were in and out of the lineup throughout the season.
In addition, the contract of Bob Myers, who served as the team’s general manager for the past 10 years, also expires this year. It may fall to another architect to take the dynasty to the next level.