SAN FRANCISCO — After the Golden State Warriors failed to qualify for the postseason for the second consecutive season, forward Draymond Green acknowledged the organization is “a ways away” from getting back into title contention after a disappointing 117-112 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night in the final play-in game for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
“We’re not in the playoffs, so we’re a ways away,” Green said. “I may go to Mexico or something [Saturday], but that’s not a gym. That’s not to an arena. That’s not flying to Utah, so we got a ways to go because we’re not in the playoffs — so we’re far away. Because in order to win a championship you got to be in the playoffs. So we’re clearly a ways away — a few tweaks here and there, and we’re not that far. But right now we’re a ways away because we’re not in the playoffs.”
The Warriors, who beat the Grizzlies in the regular-season finale last Sunday to finish eighth in the West standings heading into the play-in tournament, had two chances to clinch a postseason berth. But they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 103-100 in the first play-in game and then lost to the Grizzlies on Friday, totaling 41 turnovers in the process.
“Obviously a crushing way to go out,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Two straight games that were basically gut punches. We felt like we had control of the game the other night and lost and then really didn’t have the control of this one but could have won. We had the last shot in regulation. The ball just didn’t go our way, but we’ve had a lot of great breaks over here over the years and a lot of bad ones the last couple years, with injuries especially. All in all you have to look at this season as a success and something to build on.”
One of the reasons missing the playoffs stings so much for the Warriors is that star guard Stephen Curry played so well all season, including winning the scoring title while averaging 32 points a game.
Curry had 39 points on 13-of-28 shooting on Friday, but also coughed up seven of the Warriors’ 21 turnovers. He made no excuses about his performance, echoing Kerr’s sentiments that he was proud of what his team accomplished despite the loss.
“This is very unfamiliar territory obviously with the play-in, this being the end of the season,” Kerr said. “A very tough way to end it with these last two games coming down to the wire and us giving it everything we had in the tank. I’m proud of every single person in the Oakland uniform tonight, all season. From 15 wins last year, injuries and all that, to what we made out of this year — it’s pretty damn impressive.
“It’s a very tough way to go out and we would love to be playing on Sunday, but you can’t lose sight of the big picture in terms of where people had us at the beginning of the season.”
Curry said he still hadn’t made a decision on whether to compete for Team USA during the Tokyo Olympics later this summer. He also made clear that the abrupt ending to the Warriors’ season wouldn’t impact his decision.
“Obviously everything was geared towards extending this season as far as possible,” Curry said. “I’m trying to gather as much information and make the right decision for me at the end of the day. It’s still kind of a quick turnaround no matter how you look at it, considering we’ve been grinding every day, every other day for the last five months, six months almost.”
The good news for the Warriors is that veteran guard Klay Thompson is expected to return at some point early next season as he continues to recover from an Achilles injury. After missing last season because of an ACL injury, the Warriors are hoping that the former All-Star can give them the boost they’ve been missing.
“He’s a part of our DNA ,” Curry said. “And he is a huge part of our championship DNA and what we’re about. You saw him tonight. He was chirping and up on the sidelines. He misses that environment. I know he’s going to do everything in his power to get back to 100 percent, knowing what he’s been through the last two years. He’s got a lot of support around him to help him get there, but whatever version of him comes back is definitely a boost, and we’ll patiently wait for what that looks like.”
The Warriors also have to wait to see how the rest of their roster shapes up. No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman is expected to be back as he continues to recover from a season-ending meniscus injury. Kelly Oubre Jr. has to decide what he wants to do in free agency. The Warriors have a lot of decisions to make now with their own lottery pick and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ lottery pick later this summer that is top-three protected.
No matter how things shake out, Thompson remains convinced that better days are ahead.
“We ain’t done yet,” Thompson wrote in a social-media post after Friday’s game. “I promise you that.”