Programming note: Watch "Steph Curry's Top 30 plays of the 2015-16 season" tonight at 8pm on CSN Bay Area.
OAKLAND – Nobody wanted to leave, not the players and certainly not the fans. The game was over, but they all wanted to hug this season and this team and this moment.
Even after Draymond Green, clutching the ball and clinging to the fresh memory, addressed the Oracle Arena crowd, thanking everyone for their loyalty and support, the fans continued to linger, standing atop the fallen confetti, bathing in an evening they’ll never forget.
The Warriors entered the history books Wednesday night at and they did it in style, burying Memphis 125-104 to punctuate a season that ended with a record of 73-9 – best in 66 years of NBA history.
If anyone could comprehend the magnitude of the feat, it is Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who was a guard on the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that went 72-10, a record that lasted 20 years.
“It's a great way to finish off what was an amazing regular season,” Kerr said. “I just told our guys I never in a million years would have guessed that that record would ever be broken. I thought it was like DiMaggio's hit streak, really, and I was wrong.”
Kerr turned out to be wrong only because his team insisted on it, chasing this record until it was theirs. These Warriors chafed after every loss, each time responding with a rarely celebrated win. They were deeply committed, collectively, to chasing the things of great value – records, awards, championships etc. – in the NBA.
“We just know we have a good thing here and we want to take advantage of it and keep pushing the envelope,” Stephen Curry said. “That's what we're about, obviously, coming off a championship year last year. And we've shown that we're a better team and everybody individually has done what they need to do to put ourselves as a group in a great position going into these playoffs.”
This night was going to be theirs, and Curry certified as much once he started raining 3-pointers down upon the Grizzlies. The Warriors led by 14 in the first quarter, by 20 at the half, by 21 after three quarters.
With All-Stars Curry and Green sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter, the anticipated started becoming reality. The buzz of the crowd grew louder and louder, reaching a crescendo in the final seconds and at the buzzer.
“Man, it's a lot of emotion,” Green said. “It's incredible to get here and reach this. Like it's been 20 years since it's been done, and I don't know when it will be done again. But to be the team that breaks that record, that's incredible, man. It takes so much focus. Every night someone's gunning for you, and so much dedication and commitment to each other.
“It's not about playing for yourself or playing for stats. It's about playing for each other, and that's how something like this is accomplished, so, man, it's incredible.”
Though Curry was on his megastar game, making 10 3-pointers to reach 402 for the season, scoring 46 points in less than 30 minutes, he was merely the centerpiece of an abundant performance feast shared by all. The Warriors shot 52.9 percent. They outrebounded the Grizzlies, 51-40, and outscored them 34-10 in fast-break points.
All 13 players on the active list saw floor time. All but two scored. Klay Thompson scored 16 points, Harrison Barnes 15 and Marreese Speights 12. Green delivered another of his signature comprehensive stat lines: 11 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, one steal and a blocked shot.
“There was a lot of joy,” Thompson said, describing the postgame locker room. “Everyone was getting all their gear signed and enjoying this one night. You only get to break 72 wins once, so an incredible regular season it was. I can't believe it's over. It went by incredibly fast, but it was a great feeling in that locker room when Steve told us how proud he was of us.”
This team is where it is because of talent and diligence and persistence. The Warriors have created a healthy atmosphere, resulting in incredible unity.
“We talk about a lot that we're blessed to have each other to get to play with every single night,” Curry said. “And as long as we stay focused on continuing to get better, continuing to do things that have gotten us to this point, who knows how far we can take this thing?“
Their immediate goal is to “take this thing” through the postseason and to a second consecutive NBA championship.
But at the end of this night, Green, the emotional leader, wanted to have some fun with his teammates – all of them. He made sure to grab the game ball, but not to place it among his personal mementos. Well, not all of it.
“We’re going to cut it up,” he said, “and give everybody a piece of it.”