The Golden State Warriors' season came to an end Thursday, as the San Antonio Spurs scored a 94-82 Game 6 win behind a balanced attack that saw all five Spurs starters finish in double-figures, led by Tim Duncan's 19 points, with Manu Ginobili (11 assists, six rebounds) and Gary Neal (eight points, five boards) offering key contributions off the bench. After finishing off a 4-2 win in their best-of-seven semifinals series, the Spurs now advance to a Western Conference finals tilt with the Memphis Grizzlies, which Duncan told Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears is "not going to be pretty."
While the Spurs move on, the Warriors head home. Things didn't end the way they'd hoped — the Spurs defense again preventing the duo of Stephen Curry (22 points on 25 shots) Klay Thompson (10 points on 12 shots) from getting loose, an ankle injury severely hampering Andrew Bogut's influence on both ends of the floor, a very scary fall keeping rookie Harrison Barnes from finishing the game — but the Oracle Arena faithful appreciated the effort Mark Jackson's squad put into producing the team's best season in years ... and they stayed well after the buzzer, cheering and chanting to make sure the Warriors knew how they felt.
They got the message, and came back out to the court to let the fans know the feeling was mutual.
"We just want to thank you guys for your continued support all season," Curry said, as the crowd raised its collective voice. "You guys made Oracle Arena a great place to play. The energy, the passion you have for us ... it's unmatched across the league, so we want to just thank you guys. Obviously, it didn't end the way we wanted it to, but all the hard work and the foundation we built this year, we're going to keep growing and get back to this level next year."
Getting back to that level will be difficult — the Western Conference is always so competitive and Golden State's salary structure suggests they might have a difficult time making significant moves and additions in the offseason, meaning they're going to need sustained health and continued progression from the young core of Curry, Thompson and Barnes to reach new heights and attempt to advance beyond "feel-good story" status to the level of true championship contenders.
Those are issues for the days ahead, though. Thursday was about celebrating the journey, the fans who made it possible and the players who gave Jackson everything, as Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News wrote:
“Sometimes one of the best statements you can make is fight,” coach Mark Jackson said. “At the end of the day, our tank will be empty and our light will be bright.
“I truly believe that’s exactly what took place. Guys battled, guys gave me everything they had. We fought and I could not be prouder of any group.”
That pride shone through in the postgame dress of point guard Jarrett Jack, who chipped in 15 points off the bench and did his level best to handle more of the playmaking duties against a swarming Spurs defense with Curry limited by ankle pain over the last several games. "On the verge of tears" at his locker after the game, Jack — who now enters free agency — spoke with Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group about a quiet decision that spoke volumes:
[...] He couldn’t find the words to truly express what he was feeling, so he let his attire do the talking for him.
JACK: “Usually before I would do any media, I would make sure I was dressed a certain way. I brought one of my best suits. But looking down at this jersey, it’s just a sense of pride I don’t think I’ve ever felt as a professional. … Nothing in my closet is better than what I have on now.”
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, please feel free to check out the moment elsewhere, thanks to the NBA.