OAKLAND – When the Warriors stepped into the playoff zone Monday night, there was no music or dancing. No stench of cheap champagne. No celebration at all.
All they had done, in their minds, was reach the lowest of the many bars they've set for themselves. Oklahoma City's loss at Dallas guaranteed the Warriors would be in the Western Conference field, so their 108-105 win over the Lakers was a nothing more than Win No. 53.
"It's not like baseball, where if you win it all you have five different champagne celebrations," coach Steve Kerr said, referring to the in-season party and those that follow each victorious round in the postseason.
Leave it to Draymond Green, the relentlessly relentless power forward, to strip away the varnish and pull out the sandblaster.
"We'd look reeeeal stuuuuupid in here with a champagne celebration for making the playoffs," he said.
"Two years ago, when you haven't made the playoffs but one time in 18 years, cool. But we'd look really stupid, and goalless, to celebrate in here celebrating clinching the playoffs."
That's because this is but the first of what they hope will be six phases. First, get into the playoffs. Second, get the best possible seed. Third, win the first round. Fourth, win the second round. Fifth, win the conference finals. Sixth, win the NBA Finals.
"It's a good checkpoint," Stephen Curry said. "Obviously, we expected this going into the season."
Which is not to suggest that anything less than a championship amounts to failure. But reaching the playoffs, which most of the NBA does, no longer is the focus for a franchise that once went 13 years (1994 to 2007) between postseason appearances.
This is the third consecutive trip for the Warriors, who last made three successive postseason appearances in 1975, '76 and '77.
So veteran forward Andre Iguodala ho-hummed it, comparing these Warriors making the playoffs to an employee individual going to work. He noted that, yes, some players go their entire careers without experiencing the postseason and that it should not be taken for granted.
But this is, on the whole, for this bunch, which owns the best record in the NBA, only mildly satisfying.
So while the sellout crowd at Oracle responded to the clinching – which was noted on the high-definition video board, minutes after the Thunder loss – the Warriors (53-13) remain relatively unimpressed with themselves.
"It’s a great sign that the players are taking this in stride," Kerr said. "It means that this franchise has come a long way in the last few years.
"It made sense to celebrate a couple years ago, being the first time in a long time. But now we expect to be in the playoffs. That says a lot about the entire organization and not just the players but everybody that has played a role in putting this team together the last few years."
The Warriors played this just right. They accepted it, graciously, but realize they're capable of so much more. It's that attitude that gives this team a better chance to reach its potential.
In beating the Lakers, the Warriors moved to 40 games over .500 for the first time in franchise history and pushed their home record to a league-best 30-2.
Klay Thompson's 26 game-high points came on 10-of-22 shooting, including 3-of-9 from beyond the arc.
Green delivered another comprehensively solid line: 16 points (7-of-14 shooting), team-high eight rebounds, five steals and three assists.
Thompson left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Though he returned in the fourth quarter, he was limping badly after the game. His status for practice on Tuesday was uncertain.
The Warriors lost the rebounding battle for the fourth consecutive game, this one 45-37.
Curry struggled with his shooting (5-of-14, 2-of-6 from deep) but not at the free throw line. He made all seven from the stripe, including four in the final 4.8 seconds.
The Warriors gritted out a win over a Lakers team that plays hard despite a severe talent deficiency. It was apparent that the Warriors were not fully focused, which is not uncommon given the circumstances. They were playing a team they know they should beat, and never once thought they wouldn't.
This team has come a long way from the days when 47 wins and entering the postseason sweepstakes represented prosperity. That's progress.