OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry tried to shake Kevin Love with a dribble and let loose with one of those long 3-pointers he seemed to make at every big moment this season.
Instead of a game-tying splash in the final minute, the ball rimmed out and so did the Golden State Warriors’ chances of adding a second straight championship to a record-setting season.
With Curry and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson off all night, the Warriors capped the greatest collapse ever in the NBA Finals instead of the most successful season in league history with a 93-89 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 on Sunday night.
The record-setting 73 wins in the regular season, Curry’s unanimous MVP and the memorable comeback in the conference finals will all be a footnote now after the Warriors became the first team ever to lose the NBA Finals after taking a 3-1 series lead.
After blowing two earlier chances to clinch the title, the Warriors were in position for the win in the closing minutes of a tense Game 7 that had the boisterous crowd at Oracle Arena alternating between delirious cheers and nervous energy.
But the Warriors did not score after Thompson tied the game with a driving layup with 4:39 to play. Golden State missed its final nine shots with LeBron James coming out of nowhere to block what seemed like an uncontested go-ahead layup by Andre Iguodala with less than two minutes left and Curry missing his final four 3-point attempts as part of a 4-for-14 night from long range.
Kyrie Irving gave Cleveland the lead for good with his 3-pointer with 53 seconds left before Curry missed at the other end. After a free throw by James made it a two-possession game, Curry missed again and trudged back toward the Warriors bench as the Cavaliers celebrated the title on Golden State’s home floor.
Curry sat on the bench for a few minutes as the stage was assembled for Cleveland’s trophy celebration before he went into the mass of victorious Cavs and their followers to congratulate James and his teammates.
Then Curry took his second long, dejected walk back to the locker room, a game after his frustration led to a fourth-quarter ejection in Cleveland. That was a disappointing ending to a season that featured a record 402 3-pointers and the first unanimous NBA MVP for Curry.
By falling short of the title, the Warriors will now be part of a debate they hoped to avoid: the best teams that failed to win a championship.
Golden State joins the 18-0 New England Patriots that lost the Super Bowl in 2008, the 116-win Seattle Mariners that fell in the 2001 AL championship series and the 68-win Boston Celtics that lost in the Eastern Conference finals in 1973 as great regular season teams that couldn’t get it done in the postseason.
After winning a record 24 straight games to start the season and pushing hard to break Chicago’s record of 72 wins set in 1995-96 on the final day of the regular season, few things came easy for Golden State in the playoffs.
Curry sprained his ankle in Game 1 of the opening round against Houston and missed he next two games. He then sprained his right knee in his first game back in Houston when he slipped on a wet spot on the floor.
The Warriors still managed to beat the overmatched Rockets in five games. Curry returned in Game 4 of the second round and promptly set an NBA record with 17 points in the overtime to lead Golden State to a win that turned the tide of that series.
Golden State then rallied from 3-1 down to beat Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals before blowing the same lead to Cleveland a round later.
The collapse started when Draymond Green was suspended for hitting James in the groin late in Game 4 and couldn’t be stopped despite a 32-point, 15-rebound, nine-assist performance by Green in Game 7.
But with Curry and Thompson shooting 6 for 24 from 3-point range, the Warriors fell short.