Steve Kerr watched his team celebrate their 120-110 win over the Dallas Mavericks, reminiscing about when he became the Warriors head coach. Kerr thought back to when his team won the Western Conference Finals in 2015 and making them one of the most dominant teams ever.
As his team took the Conference Finals trophy, he looked into the crowd at Chase Center on Thursday and experienced a feeling from seven years ago when the Golden State Warriors won their first playoff series.
The Warriors beat the Toronto Raptors to make it to their sixth NBA Championship since the 2019 season and first since 2010.
“Tonight was different because we’ve done it before,” Kerr said. “But in a different way, it was incredibly meaningful given everything that we’ve been through since our team’s inception.”
The Warriors have seen a series of bad years lately. The team was the worst in the league in 2020-21, but Klay Thompson seems to be back on his game and Stephen Curry is still going strong. In two play-off games losses, however, it seemed that after almost two decades in the league, Golden State’s luck had finally run out.
“The Warriors have made it easy on themselves to stay locked in of the opportunities that are coming their way,” Curry said. “Because they finished building momentum in recent years and brought back what Warriors basketball was.”
The Warriors have been a much different team since the return of Thompson. As they were presented with their trophy, his emotions were palpable, even needing to cut his on-court interview short as he fought to hold back tears.
“I’m happy for everybody,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “But it’s hard not to be most excited for Klay Thompson. He gets the chance to fight back from a serious knee injury and return to being an amazing player.”
Thompson hit a big 32 points on 12-of-25 shooting, including 8 3-pointers. Thompson became the first player in NBA history to hit 8 3s in multiple series-clinching games in his career (he hit 8 in Game 6 against the Memphis Grizzlies).
“I’ve been dreaming about this day,” Thompson said. “Just my appreciation for being able to move my body again, I thought about that. I thought about all those days when I wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t do all the activities I love, how great it is to be here again wearing a Western Conference Champion shirt, a NBA Finals hat, just what we dreamed of for him.”
The Warriors have been saying, “Once Klay comes back from his injuries …”.
The Warriors looked for a player to fit a formula and make the team whole again. They felt like his return would complete that puzzle.
“Did you notice how much he was missing over the last couple of years?” Draymond Green said. “To have him back, still not 100 percent back to the Klay Thompson that we know, but working his way there, is special.”
Stephen Curry had his best scoring night of the postseason, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting and nine assists. Green, while he had a quiet night — scoring 15 points with nine assists — was named the inaugural Magic Johnson Western Conference finals MVP.
After the trio of Curry, Thompson and Green made their sixth consecutive run to the NBA Finals, they became the first threesome in fifty years.
But, this is the first time these three have been given the responsibility for making it to the end of the race. And their supporting cast are one of the things that make this run feel different.
Thompson often takes a page out of John Wooden’s book when trying to figure out how the people of the Golden State Warriors have been able to do so well in their franchise.
Despite being the only other players on the Warriors roster to win more than one championship, Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney are the only two players without rings.
The Warriors have veteran players, such as Andrew Wiggins and Otto Porter Jr. They also have young players who seem to be bridging the gap between their past and future as well as journeymen like Gary Payton II.
“The ability to set the table for everybody who comes through and elevate themselves, find their way and be a part of the fold,” Curry said. “We pride ourselves on doing more than what we do individually.”
“In my short three years as the head coach of this team, they’re extremely special,” Poole said. “What makes that special is they always knew they had championship DNA. Maybe the pieces didn’t fit at first, the first two years. But you can tell that was the core. Everything we did, from practice to preparation, was all championship-based … even though the two years were tough, it obviously built up to this.”
The Golden State Warriors took control of Thursday’s Game 5 early, building an 18-point lead in the second quarter – the largest first-half lead for the Warriors and the largest first-half deficit for the Mavericks this postseason.
Dallas made a run in the third period. They scored 15 unanswered points to cut the Mavericks’ once 25-point deficit down to seven.
The Warriors started the fourth quarter with a small run to get ahead, and they managed to keep the Mavericks close for the rest of the game.
Although the starters would all finish in double digits, Game 5 was a showcase for the Warriors’ depth, which needed the game to be won. Bjelica checked in first and instantly provided strong defense, posting a plus-14 net rating in his first 11-minute stretch. Moody had been given Payton’s minutes, and gave the Warriors an advantage.
The Warriors stopped the Mavericks next-man up from happening. The Warriors had to stop this mentality all throughout their regular season.
Green warned the public about dangerous sea level rise because of climate change soon after Curry warned of it.
“I said, ‘Don’t let us win a championship,'” Green recalled. Even without Thompson at the time, he saw something in this group. Even when he was sidelined for two months with a back injury, he had faith. Even with Curry missing the last month of the regular season, he believed it would come together.
Now, it has.
Green said that “No one has proven they can move us off that spot.” He went on to explain a championship mindset and process.
He said: “I’m not going to say that I thought coming into this season, like, yo, we’re going to win a championship or we’re going to be in the NBA Finals. But I always believed with [Green, Curry and Thompson], we have a chance.”
The Warriors organization is familiar with that feeling. It is relevant across the board.