Winning the Pacific Division title, as the Warriors did Tuesday night with a 122-108 victory over the Trail Blazers at Moda Center in Portland, is a small feat only when disregarding the journey and dismissing perspective.
The journey is half the joy, folks, and perspective is a requirement of context.
The Warriors have not sniffed a division crown since 1976, when gas was 59 cents a gallon and $5 an hour was a living wage. For 39 years, they have flailed and foundered, experiencing only brief snippets of success always wiped away by tidal waves of failure. The whole dreadful cycle was so repetitive it became utterly predictable.
The Warriors, bless their cold hearts and wayward minds, were a sports franchise that seemed forever committed to its own undoing.
But look at this team now. The Warriors in three seasons have gone from 47 wins and the measured optimism that comes with winning a playoff series, to 51 wins and the awakening of actual faith, to 58 wins and clinching a division title with 23 days left in the regular season.
Associate head coach Alvin Gentry, an NBA lifer, encouraged everyone to savor the achievement. And they did, if only for the moment.
"As Alvin said, 'If you haven't done something for 39 years, you'd better celebrate it when you finally do,'" head coach Steve Kerr said. "It’s a great moment for our franchise. It kind of shows how far we've come the last few years."
Since winning 59 games and the division title in 1976, the Warriors have finished in the division cellar 10 times. They've gone through 16 coaches, 17 if you count Don Nelson twice. They've botched drafts, been robbed blind in trades and connected every conceivable dot from pathological dysfunction to serial ineptitude.
What could be more refreshing for this franchise than a Pacific Division championship to rinse away some of the soil and sins of the past?
“It’s a big deal," said Stephen Curry, the MVP candidate who led the Warriors to this milestone triumph. "It's the first time I think a lot of guys in this room have experienced that, obviously the franchise in however many years.
"It's an absolute checkpoint and I hope we finish seeding the same way we’ve been playing and keep our focus about what we’re doing. We’ve wrapped up the division, now we’ve got to wrap up the number one seed and look for the next goal.”
That would be capturing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and getting homecourt advantage, assuring the Warriors that the road to the NBA Finals must go through Oracle Arena.
That’s the prize they're chasing, the one that leads to jewelry and a trophy and a parade and their own chapter in the gilded book of champions.
"It's one of the many goals we set for ourselves this season," said forward Draymond Green, whose fingerprints were all over the clinching win. "We all know the main goal, but . . . baby steps. We've reached certain milestones to get to the main goal, and this is one of them."
This one is not essential. A division title only guarantees a top-four seed and a banner, if a team chooses to hang it, which the Warriors are likely to do – in the team facility.
It's a positive development for a franchise long foreign to the concept but clearly anticipating more. The celebration consisted of little more than a round of congratulations and the passing out of gold T-shirts signifying the accomplishment.
"We can't rest on it," center Andrew Bogut said, "but we can enjoy it tonight and get back at it in a couple days."
They'll take Wednesday off, not to nurse hangovers – there was no liquor-stained celebration – but to reflect on what is done and prepare for what's left to do.
Curry, Bogut, Green and Andre Iguodala carried the night, each providing an ingredient essential to the victory. Curry finished with 33 points and 10 assists, Bogut with 10 points, 16 rebounds and six assists. Green game within two assists of a recording a triple-double and Iguodala missed only two of his 11 shots.
The Warriors once again summoned a spell of torrid defense, holding the Blazers to 29.2-percent shooting (7-of-24) in the decisive third quarter.
With Bogut leading the way, the Warriors seemed to have their rebounding mojo back. They won that battle on Tuesday and have gone four games without losing it.
We're going to skip this one (even though they did find themselves down by 12 to a Blazers team with only two regular starters, Damian Lillard and Robin Lopez).
It has been a season of firsts and hurdles, of rewriting franchise history and rediscovering the glory of winning. It's an obstacle course of milestones that serve as ongoing reminders of what's possible.
At the rate these Warriors are going, there is no competitive barrier they can't scale.