The Golden State Warriors were eliminated from the playoffs on Friday night with a 122-101 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of their series in the second round. Their title defense that ended in the second round came as a surprise to many, but not to head coach Steve Kerr.
“To be honest, I think this team has reached its maximum in the end,” said Kerr. “We were barely in the playoffs for most of this year. … This is not a championship team.
“We did a damn good job over the last month finding something here. We came close to retaking what we had, but we didn’t quite get it. We didn’t feel like a championship team all year, but we had it guts and the fortitude to believe.”
It’s hard to argue with Kerr’s assessment. Had another team entered the playoffs with the same resume as the Warriors, few would have had much confidence that they could pull off a deep run. But because of their championship pedigree, it was easy to imagine a scenario where they flipped a switch.
In the end, however, the Warriors were unable to overcome their various weaknesses, all of which manifested themselves in Game 6: utter ineptitude on the road, a lack of consistent offensive production from the supporting cast, and an inability to defend without making mistakes .
During the regular season, the Warriors were 11-30 on the road, the fourth worst away-from-home mark in the league. The only teams with worse road records were the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, all of whom finished 8-33 and had the three worst records. That’s not a championship trait, and with the season on the line, the Warriors were crushed on the road in a game that needed to be won by 21 points.
While Steph Curry was his usual self in the regular season when healthy, the supporting cast was not as strong as in previous seasons. Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole each averaged over 20 points per game, but did so inefficiently and struggled to defend. Andrew Wiggins was the only other player to score in double digits during the regular season, and Kerr played consistently with the rotation to try to figure out who to trust. It continued in this series, as JaMychal Green made some surprise starts and then didn’t even play in Game 6 — a game where Curry scored 32, Donte DiVincenzo 16, and no one else had more than nine points. Thompson and Poole combined for 15 on 6-of-29 from the field.
For much of this dynastic run, the Warriors had an elite defense. Not so much this season, as they finished 13th in defensive rating with 113.4 points allowed per 100 possessions. A big problem on that side of the ball was getting the opponent on the line. They averaged 21.4 fouls per game, which ranked 28th, and their opponents attempted 25.2 free throws per game, which ranked 25th. That was a big deal in this series, especially given the Lakers’ insistence on attacking the paint. In Game 6, the Lakers shot 42 free throws. It didn’t matter that they only made 31, because they still outscored the Warriors on the line by 21 points — the exact margin of victory.
Championship teams win on the road, know what they’re going to get from the bench and defend at a high level. The Warriors have done none of these three things and as a result they go home without a championship.