OAKLAND, Calif. -- The losing locker room is where you find sorrow and regret. In the Golden State Warriors' locker room on Sunday night, in the vapor trail of a 73-win season that ended with one haunting defeat, it was only amplified.
Stephen Curry sat at his locker for a good 15 minutes, head in his hands and not moving. It was as though he didn't want to take his uniform off, because doing so would prove that it was over.
Klay Thompson sat next to him, half-dressed and wholly out of sorts. A black towel draped over his head, he just sat and stared at nothing. Darkness. A penny for his thoughts.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever had to go through in my sports career," Thompson said after the winningest regular season team in NBA history fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers 93-89 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. "It hurts real bad right now. But obviously we're going to get better from it. This is not the last time we'll be at this stage, not the last time we'll be here."
Curry suddenly popped up and made a beeline for the opposite side of the room, where he shared a private moment with Draymond Green. For some reason, Green was smiling. Curry wandered into the shower area, then suddenly appeared again and returned to his locker.
It was like the two-time MVP didn't know where to go or what to do.
Losing can shake you like that, especially when it's preceded by so much winning.
"We've had so many moments of joy together," coach Steve Kerr said. "And it was like, 'Wow, we're actually having a moment of sorrow as a team.' It's a great reminder that, first of all, it's not easy to win a championship."
No, it's not. Not nearly as easy as the Warriors made 73-9 look during the best regular season in NBA history.
"We had a great regular season, did something no team's done before," Curry said. "Fell short in the last game of the season. It hurts, man. ... I'm just proud of every single guy that stepped foot on the floor for our team this year. It wasn't easy what we accomplished, and it's not an easy pill to swallow what we didn't accomplish."
Over six months and 82 games, these Warriors lost nine times. They were rewriting history, and they were doing it in ways the sport had never seen before.
Over two months and 24 postseason games, the same team lost ... nine times.
"Yeah, we're stunned," Kerr said. "We thought we were going to win."
It will take time for it to sink in. After winning their first championship in 40 years and eclipsing Michael Jordan's 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the most regular-season victories in league history, the Warriors were on a collision course with historic comparisons.
Comparisons that, now, will have to wait.
Nobody can erase 73 from the record books, nor can anyone erase the bitter stench of one glaring defeat.
"We still did all those things," said Draymond Green, whose suspension for Game 5 in this series for a flagrant foul in Game 4 will be among the what-ifs that will haunt the Warriors all summer. "Obviously, everybody will say, 'Oh, man, they won 73 but they didn't win a championship.' We didn't. ... We failed at one goal we had, but this whole season isn't a failure to me."
What the Warriors accomplished was still breathtaking, and worth reflecting on -- especially in the context of the multiple-title teams they were chasing and the history they were trying to rewrite.
"We understand, when you look at the history of the league, how few teams repeated," Curry said. "That was our goal, and we didn't do it. It's going to be a long three months over the summer thinking about it."
They were trying to become only the seventh franchise to win back-t0-back titles, which has been done only eight times since 1969, when the reign of Bill Russell's Celtics ended after 10 championships in 11 years. And they were trying to do it with the kind of basketball no one had ever seen before.
The Warriors made 1,960 3-pointers over the past two seasons, nearly 1,000 more than each of the last two back-to-back champions -- the 2012 and '13 Heat (1,087) and the 2009 and '10 Lakers (1,079). It's even significantly more than the last team to accomplish a three-peat. From 2000-02, the Lakers of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal made 1,293 3-pointers over three seasons, not close to the Warriors' total over the past two seasons.
Jordan's Bulls? They made fewer 3s in their six championship seasons combined (1,915 in their two three-peats) than the Warriors have made in the past two seasons. I mean, Curry made more 3-pointers this season by himself (402) than the Bad Boy Pistons made in their back-to-back championship seasons in 1989 and '90 combined (297).
But any comparison to those teams is on hold until next year, when the Warriors are determined to get back here again. And before Curry and Thompson sleep this one off and lift their heads from their pillows on Monday morning, the speculation will begin about how this team will look -- how it will change.
Harrison Barnes, 5-for-32 over the final three games of the series, will be a restricted free agent on July 1. If he leaves, the Warriors will be a minor trade or two away from creating room for a max free agent -- and we all know there is only one true max free agent this summer. His initials are K.D.
The season ends, and the Summer of Kevin Durant begins. It will all hinge on what Durant wants to do and how he wants to do it, but it's worth wondering: Does the Warriors' Finals defeat make it easier for Durant to sell leaving Oklahoma City and coming to the Bay Area? Does it make it appear less like Durant is trying to ride championship coattails, and more like he's trying to push the Warriors back to the top?
Nobody knows. What we do know is that the best regular-season team in NBA history does not get to stake its claim to being one of the best of all time.
"It's not about learning anything or life lessons or anything like that," Kerr said. "The only thing it's about is getting better as a team, and that's what we'll try to do next year."