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Dieter Kurtenbach: Warriors had the championship heart, just not the championship bodies

UPDATED: Fri., June 14, 2019

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, center,  winces after being injured during the second half of Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday. (Tony Avelar / AP)
Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, center, winces after being injured during the second half of Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday. (Tony Avelar / AP)
By Dieter Kurtenbach Tribune News Service

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Warriors fought to the end.

Man, did they fight.

They showed unspeakable tenacity, steely resolve, and an unquantifiable amount of heart.

But they didn’t have enough soldiers to win the war.

Stephen Curry had a chance to win it – a clean-as-you-could-expect look at the rim from behind the 3-point arc, but his shot in the final seconds clanked off the rim. The Warriors had a chance to get the rebound – they scrambled on the floor, finally getting to the ball with 0.9 seconds remaining. But at that point Thursday, there was nothing more that could be done – the Raptors claimed a wild and emotional Game 6, 114-110, to claim the franchise’s first NBA title.

The Raptors are worthy champions, having outplayed the Warriors for the vast majority of this series and executing down the stretch of the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game in a way they couldn’t in Monday’s Game 5.

But make no mistake, the Warriors played like champions, too.

And though they didn’t achieve their goal of winning a third consecutive title – a fourth in five years – they should exit the season with their heads held high.

For a lesser team, the compounding circumstances of Thursday would have been overwhelming.

Game 6 was the final game at Oracle Arena, an emotional and bittersweet occasion.

They entered Game 6 without Kevin Durant, who tore his Achilles tendon – the worst injury a basketball player can get – on Monday.

And then, in the third quarter, they lost Klay Thompson to a knee injury. Thompson doubled back from the locker room and limped to the free-throw line, knocking down a pair, in hopes that he could return. Shortly thereafter it was announced he would not and the even more shorthanded Warriors would be left to win Game 6 not just for Durant but also for Thompson.

By the end of the contest, everyone in a black “The Town” jersey was playing with some form of ailment. Kevon Looney was even playing despite broken chest cartilage.

The Warriors have played nearly 6 1/2 seasons of basketball over the course of the last five campaigns. They were physically and emotionally exhausted, physically battered, and the Raptors – bigger, faster, stronger, and healthier – were counterpunching every one of the Warriors’ jabs.

You could have understood if the Warriors threw in the towel after Thompson’s injury.

Instead, they fought.

So much of the Warriors’ success on Thursday was inexplicable.

Thompson, before his injury, played one of the greatest games of his Hall of Fame career. He scored 30 points on 8-of-12 shooting, knocking down tough shot after tough shot against a suffocating Toronto defense.

Curry – double- and triple-teamed all game – went 6 of 17 from the floor and missed that final shot, but hit big shot after big shot down the stretch, keeping the Warriors in the game after Thompson exited.

Andre Iguodala was gassed from the jump of this series, hobbled by a calf injury and a long NBA career. He was shooting 36% from the floor and only 25% from beyond the arc.

But in Game 6, he was the third scorer the Warriors needed, making 9 of 15 attempts – including three 3-pointers – en route to 22 points.

DeMarcus Cousins – up and down all season, all series – took on two, three defenders at a time to give the Warriors 12 much-needed points.

Draymond Green pushed the Warriors’ defense to another level in the fourth quarter. He knocked down a huge 3-pointer in the fourth quarter and pulled down 19 rebounds and dished out 13 assists.

They left it all out there.

Toronto had more to give.

It’s no consolation, but Oracle Arena went out loud. The fans stood for the entire first quarter, stayed loud throughout the contest, and restored a semblance of home-court advantage in a game in which the Warriors absolutely needed it.

Where do the Warriors go from here? Is the dynasty over?

No one really knows.

Durant is a free agent this summer, though he will not play in the 2019-2020 season because of his injury.

If he leaves, Golden State has no way to directly replace a player of his talent. If he stays, it’s impossible to say if he will be the same player again.

But if this Golden Era of Warriors basketball really did come to an end on Thursday night, do not remember the occasion with sadness.

Instead, remember the display of intangibles on display at Roaracle. Because as much as talent was the reason behind the Warriors’ unprecedented success, it was those unquantifiable things that made this team truly great.

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