LOS ANGELES — Reigning champion Golden State’s free-running, three-point focused style of play changed the NBA and made Stephen Curry a household name. But on Friday night, the team couldn’t muster a final sweeping wave of deep shots and bow to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games in the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Lakers won Game 6 122-101.
It was one of the most highly anticipated playoff matchups in years, pitting Curry against Lakers star LeBron James for the first time since the 2018 NBA Finals at the Cleveland Cavaliers. But the series ultimately failed to live up to the hype, with outbursts in Games 2, 3 and 5 following a thrilling Lakers victory to open the series.
In Game 6, Golden State seemed out of sorts from the start. The Lakers opened the game 24-9. Golden State’s Klay Thompson missed nine of his first ten shots; Curry missed four of his first five. Then, just before halftime, a last-second desperation shot from Lakers guard Austin Reaves sent Crypto.com Arena into a frenzy and Los Angeles went into halftime with a 10-point lead. In the third quarter, James led the push to extend the lead to 19 and the Lakers were firmly in control going into the fourth quarter. Golden State was never found again.
This means the Golden State dynasty — four championships since 2015 behind Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green — may be coming to an end or at least heading for a makeover. With one of the most expensive rosters in the league and a new collective bargaining agreement aimed at curbing big spend, Golden State will likely try to cut costs. It could be a stark transition for the team considering it’s gone from a rudderless middle-of-the-road franchise over the past decade to one of its most financially valuable franchises with Curry at the helm.
But this season has been a slog for Golden State. It finished 44–38 to the Western Conference sixth seed and had one of the worst road records in the league, at 11–30.
But there were times when the team could dig for vintage renditions.
Curry played one of the best games of his career in the first round of the playoffs. Golden State faced the third-seeded Kings in Sacramento for a deciding Game 7. Curry scored 50 points—the most ever in Game 7—and hit seven 3-pointers. It was a reminder of the magic that had made his team so great.
In the conference semifinals, against the seventh-seeded Lakers, Golden State had home field advantage. But losing Game 1 at home set the tone for the series. While Golden State looked dominant in Games 2 and 5, both at home, Game 4 was a series turner: Golden State made several uncharacteristically sloppy errors along the stretch, dropping the team to a terrifying 3-1 hole in the series.
It was ultimately too much for Golden State to overcome.
The series served as a reminder: it’s hard to stay on top for long.
Green, a four-time All-Star, has a player option for next year and is expected to test free agency. He had one of his better seasons this year, but turns 34 in March, and Golden State may be hesitant to offer him a maximum contract. Green has shown a penchant for impulsive behavior, such as punching teammate Jordan Poole in training camp, and had the second most technical fouls in the league in the regular season.
A five-time All-Star, Thompson still has moments where he looks like one of the best shooters in NBA history, but at 33 and after two major injuries, he’s noticeably slowed down on defense. His contract expires after next season.
Golden State will also have to decide what to do with its young players, whom the team has been trying to develop in its pursuit of a championship – a path that has been criticized for putting too much strain on the 35-year-old Curry. In particular, Poole, a 23-year-old guard, struggled mightily in the playoffs, a less than ideal scenario considering Golden State signed him to a four-year contract extension worth up to $140 million in October. Other young players, such as Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, both 20, have been in and out of the lineup all season.
In addition, this year the contract of Bob Myers, the team’s general manager for the last decade, expires. It could be another architect to take the dynasty to the next stage.