It’s the kind of play that would haunt Dub Nation for a while.
With the ballgame tied with less than 10 seconds left in a win or go home-type of deal, Steph Curry was trapped at halfcourt and had no choice but to give up the ball.
It ended up in the hands of Draymond Green, who—despite his Swiss Army knife tendencies—isn’t in the second tier of offensive weapons of the Golden State Warriors. Green was open at the top of the key with 2 seconds left. He had about three good options: take the wide open jumper, drive to suck in the defense then quickly kick out for the game-winner, or take it strong to the hole and dunk the Warriors straight to the playoffs.
Instead, Green picked the worst one. He took one dribble then threw up (as in puked) a weak floater that missed the rim completely, hitting only the lower left side of the backboard. The game went into overtime, where the Warriors officially ended a long, exhausting season.
The Warriors had a chance to win it at the end of regulation pic.twitter.com/fI2OgdTe3U— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 22, 2021
Not to pin everything on three-time champion Draymond Green (who dropped a triple-double and two clutch baskets in the fourth), but had that last play in regulation gone differently, this article would’ve been written differently, in a much chirpier tone.
But that single play told the story of the Warriors’ struggle all season long. Send more bodies to suffocate Curry, force him to give up the ball, and watch the Warriors offense disintegrate.
The Warriors almost overcame that struggle, too. Curry is such a generational talent, an anomaly in sneakers, that despite having three, four people guarding him on multiple occasions, he still managed to finish with 39 points.
Despite not having Klay Thompson with him to attract some of the defense he’s absorbing, he still carried Golden State almost into the dark fringes of the playoffs.
Despite all defensive schemes designed to prevent him from putting on a show, he still got to dance, and as an added bonus, snatch the scoring crown from the Bradley Beals and Damian Lillards of the league.
Remember Steph Curry month? For us mere mortals, we referred to it as April. That’s when Curry averaged 37.3 points per game and 6.4 3s with shooting percentages of 52-47-91. It made him the first player in NBA history to average 35-plus points on 50-45-90 percent shooting in a month. He drained 96 3s that month, and in the process, surpassed Reggie Miller to take the No. 2 spot in most 3s made all-time.
All that, for a 39-33 win-loss record (HUGE jump from last season’s worst record) that’s good enough for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. Despite all the injuries to the Warriors, himself included, Curry still got his team the two opportunities they needed to potentially get into the playoffs.
In both opportunities, the Warriors fought hard, the champion’s fortitude trying harder to keep them up. If not for two larger-than-life buckets from LeBron James and Ja Morant, there would have been a big chance that the Warriors season didn’t end with the sad visual of a towel over Steph Curry’s head.
If not for the injuries to Klay and second overall pick James Wiseman, there would have been a possibility of a better Warriors record. Or at least, a better shooting output than the 5-of-18 from 3 in the Memphis game outside of Curry.
The “ifs” and “would have beens” pile up after a lost season, particularly when the lost season was promising. Now, we’re at the point in the article where we look forward to that promise, to that bounce-back form, to a team that closely resembles the one that won championships.
A couple of times during that Memphis game, the camera caught Klay at the sidelines, wearing a mask and a neon shirt. He would fidget, anxiously fix his shirt, and pound his fists down on the railing. He’s been helplessly watching from the sidelines as his Warriors get beat for two straight seasons.
Klay wants in this game so bad pic.twitter.com/LpWX75hrrR— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 22, 2021
It’s just not the same three years ago, when the Warriors were a problem the league couldn’t solve. The Warriors may need to make a few moves in the offseason to keep up with a fast-changing league. With Klay expected to be back, Curry and Green having another go at it, plus a potential first-round pick (from Minnesota) in the wings, next season would be an entirely different story.
“I’ve never been hungrier,” Klay said on an Instagram post after the Warriors’ loss. “I truly believe my best ball lies ahead of me. We ain’t done, I promise you that.”
It’s the kind of promise that would keep Dub Nation hopeful for the future.