OAKLAND • The best regular season in National Basketball Association (NBA) history ended without a championship on Sunday, and, try as they did, the Golden State Warriors could not set aside their sorrow, frustration and shock.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever had to go through in my sports career," their sharp-shooter Klay Thompson said.
"It's difficult to process. It feels like a failure. It stings more than anything I've gone through in my career."
The Warriors suffered the worst choke in NBA Finals history, becoming the first team to squander a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and lose the title after falling 89-93 to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7.
"Everybody was obviously just sad, just down. They are really bummed out," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "We've had so many moments of joy together, and it was like, wow, we're actually having a moment of sorrow."
TOUGH ACHIEVEMENT, TOUGH FAILURE
It wasn't easy what we accomplished and it's not an easy pill to swallow what we didn't accomplish.
STEPHEN CURRY, Golden State Warriors star, on the record-breaking regular season that his team have been through, and the NBA Finals loss that marred the season.
STILL A SEASON TO SAVOUR
This team accomplished a lot of great things. I don't look at this entire season as a failure.
DRAYMOND GREEN, Warriors forward, looking back at their record-breaking season.
Cleveland Cavaliers' three-point percentage (1-of-14) in the first half. They finished 6-of-25.
Number of times Stephen Curry's shots were contested. He made just six out of 19.
Percentage of three-pointers Draymond Green made (5 of 5) in the first half. He finished 6-of-8.
Shots Golden State missed in the fourth quarter to close Game 7.
Total points contribution from the Cavaliers bench of Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert and Mo Williams.
Golden State had the most regular-season wins in NBA history with 73, one better than the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. They actually had 88 in total, including the play-offs, also breaking a mark made by the Michael Jordan-led Bulls.
"What we accomplished - I don't know if that will ever be done again," Thompson said. "Lucky for us, the sun comes up tomorrow. We're going to be better from this. I promise you that."
Stephen Curry won his second consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player award and led the league in scoring with 30.1 points a game, hitting a record 402 three-pointers.
"It hurts," he said. "It wasn't easy what we accomplished and it's not an easy pill to swallow what we didn't accomplish.
"I had some good moments, but didn't do enough to help my team win, especially down the stretch. It will haunt me for a while."
The team's first three-game losing streak since November 2013 came in the Finals and cost them the championship that might have arguably made this the greatest season in NBA history.
"We're stunned. We thought we were going to win," Kerr said. "I was extremely confident. We had a phenomenal season. Couldn't finish it off.
"It's not about learning life lessons or anything like that. The only thing it is about is getting better as a team."
At the end, Curry could only watch a tearful LeBron James celebrate with the trophy and wonder what more he might have done in a game where nine months of work towards a title went down to the last seconds.
"Obviously the biggest lesson is nothing's ever guaranteed. You can't take this stage for granted and it's extremely hard to win a championship," he said.
Draymond Green, who scored a game-high 32 points, had said the Warriors would have won Game 5 had he not been suspended for accumulated play-off flagrant fouls.
"I learnt a lot about myself as a man, as a team-mate, as a player. I learnt a lot that will help me for the rest of my life," Green said. "I won't put myself in that position again."
He sees the season's success and play-off flop as separate events.
"Everybody will say, 'They won 73 but they didn't win a championship.' We didn't. But I think this team accomplished a lot of great things. I don't look at this entire season as a failure."
But Green is far from putting the Finals collapse behind him. "I'm not over the loss," he said. "I'll probably never be over that."