SAN ANTONIO — There wasn’t much of a celebration. No crackling streams of cacophonous noise from the locker room, no dancing, no singing that could be heard through the walls of the visiting team’s locker room at AT&T Center.
There were but two visible signs of achievement. They were presented with a trophy for winning the Western Conference Finals, and they wore black caps signifying their presence in the upcoming 2017 NBA Finals.
Aside from that, the Warriors, invincible over the past five weeks, were as outwardly sober as a pair of penny loafers.
“Don't get me wrong: we appreciate this opportunity,” Stephen Curry said after sweeping the Spurs with a 129-115 victory in Game 4 Monday night. “Playing in this league, you can't take anything for granted. Thirty teams suit up every year trying to get to this point, and only two teams do. So you have to appreciate it.
“We might not be jumping up and down and screaming at the top of our lungs and doing all that nonsense, but we need to understand the privilege that we have and the opportunity that we have to play in The Finals again, to have the opportunity to win a championship.”
That’s what three consecutive trips to The Finals, following three fabulous regular seasons have done to the franchise that, not so long ago, the NBA barely recognized. From perennial lottery picks, and generally failing once there, to the pinnacle of the game with regularity.
The Warriors have advanced from hoping to make the playoffs to earning three straight trips to The Finals for the first time in franchise history to a mental state where anything less than a championship is bitter disappointment.
And they have been so magnificent through the first three quarters of these playoffs. The Warriors are the first team to open the postseason with three consecutive four-game sweeps and the first to post a 12-0 record at any point of the postseason.
“(Being) 12-0 is great,” Curry said, “but it doesn't mean anything going into the next series, and we have to understand that.”
The next series, The Finals, represents a major part of the equation for the Warriors. Getting back is one thing, getting back to face Cleveland would be quite another. Getting back to face Cleveland, and winning, would be nirvana.
“It's good that we're here now,” Kevin Durant said. “Obviously, we want to take that to the next series and try to be great and see what happens. But like Steph said, 12-0 really doesn't matter going into the next series. We know it's going to be a battle.”
The Warriors will take two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, away from the game to savor the most impressive start to a postseason the league has ever seen. The Finals don’t start until June 1.
That’s nine days away, so they have enough time for two haircuts, four picnics and dozen massages. A belated champagne celebration, if they desire.
But the feeling is they don’t. That they want to save such a lavish ceremony for the victory that leads to the parade and the rings. Postseason sweeps are a wondrous thing, but utterly insignificant if they don’t lead to the top.
“Like I said before, it's about winning the championship, and we're four games away from that,” Draymond Green said. “Now, if that's 4-0, great? If it's 4-3, great. It doesn't matter how you get those four wins as long as you get them, and that's our goal.”
On this night, the goal was to vanquish the Spurs, to send them home without a single victory. Done. The Warriors scored 498 points during the series, tying the 1978 76ers for the most points a team has scored in a four-game series. Curry reset his record for most 3-pointers in a four-game series with 21.
“Well, obviously it's something you're going to appreciate,” Green said of the accomplishments thus far. “You try not to take it for granted because it just doesn't happen every year where you're headed to the NBA Finals. So you appreciate it.
“But you can definitely sense a little different type of feeling where it's great and everybody's excited about it. But you just see a difference and it's still kind of a business-as-usual, we're-not-finished type of attitude, which is great.”
The Warriors are on top of the basketball world, if only for the moment. And it’s the for the moment part that they seem to fully grasp. And, for them, this is not the moment for celebration.