The Golden State Warriors were eliminated from the playoffs on Friday night with a 122-101 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of their second-round series. Their title defense ending in the second round was a surprise to many, but not head coach Steve Kerr.
"To be fair, I think this team ultimately maxed out," Kerr said. "We were barely in the playoff picture most of this year. ... This is not a championship team.
"We did a pretty damn good job of finding something here over the last month. We came close to recapturing what we had, but we didn't quite get there. We didn't feel like a championship team all year, but we had the guts and the fortitude to believe."
It's hard to argue with Kerr's assessment. If another team had entered the playoffs with the same resume as the Warriors, few would have had much faith that they could make a deep run. But because of their championship pedigree, it was easy to envision a scenario where they flipped a switch.
Ultimately, though, the Warriors were not able to overcome their various weaknesses, which all came to bear in Game 6: total ineptitude on the road, a lack of consistent offensive production from the supporting cast and an inability to defend without fouling.
During the regular season, the Warriors were 11-30 on the road, the fourth-worst mark away from home in the league. The only teams with worse road records were the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, who all finished 8-33 and had the three worst records overall. That is not a championship trait, and with the season on the line, the Warriors were crushed on the road in a must-win game 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 not do so efficiently and struggled to defend. Andrew Wiggins was the only other player who scored in double figures during the regular season, and Kerr consistently toyed with the rotation to try and figure out who he could trust. That continued into this series, when JaMychal Green made a few surprise starts, then didn't even play in Game 6 -- a contest where Curry put up 32, Donte DiVincenzo added 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 boasted an elite defense. Not so much this season as they finished 13th in defensive rating at 113.4 points allowed per 100 possessions. A major issue on that side of the ball was putting 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 checked in at 25th. That was a major issue in this series, especially given the Lakers' insistence on attacking the paint. In Game 6, the Lakers shot a whopping 42 free throws. It didn't matter that they only made 31 of them, as they still outscored the Warriors by 21 points on the line -- 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 didn't do any of those three things, and as a result, they're going home without a championship.