A visibly disappointed Stephen Curry admits the Golden State Warriors missing the playoffs again was a "tough way" to end their amazing run but wants to keep sight of the bigger picture.
The Warriors won 15 of their last 20 regular-season matches, including eight of the last nine down the final stretch prior to the play-in tournament where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday and were eliminated 117-112 in over-time by the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.
Golden State misses the playoffs for a second straight season, but improved to 39-33 after finishing 15-50 last season, and Curry insisted major gains had been made, after being written off earlier in the season following their disastrous 2019-20 campaign.
"From 15 wins last year, injuries and all that, to what we made out of this year, it's pretty damn impressive," Curry said during his post-game video conference.
"It's a very tough way to go out. We would love to be playing on Sunday but you can't lose sight of the big picture in terms of where people had us at the start of the season, with youth, inexperience and line-up changes all year.
"We were two fourth quarters away from being a seventh or eighth seed. It's weird all the way around."
He added: "It's very unfamiliar territory obviously with the play-in and this being the end of the season. It's a very tough way to end it with these last two games coming down to the wire.
"I gave it everything in the tank. I'm proud of every single person in the Oakland uniform tonight and all season."
The 33-year-old shooting guard, who had a remarkable season averaging 32 points per game, added that the Warriors were "sick to their stomachs" post-game.
"We had a good little session in the locker room after the game where everybody was sick to their stomach disappointed this is the end and how you're going out," Curry said.
"It's okay to pat yourself on the back for doing something nobody thought we could do. I don’t think there's any moral victories, but we're proud of ourselves."
Meanwhile, Grizzlies 21-year-old point guard Ja Morant said his side are not fazed by being the youngest team to qualify for the NBA playoffs since the 2011 Oklahoma City Thunder side which included Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Memphis qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17 as former 2019 number two draft pick Morant, 21, finished with 35 points, six assists and six rebounds.
"We just go out and battle. We know we're a young team," Morant told ESPN.
"We've got some vets who coach us up and lead us. Me being the point guard you have to be a leader. It's my first time making the playoffs but we have some guys who've been in the playoffs before and they’ll help us out."
Morant made two crucial floaters down the stretch to help the Grizzlies to their over-time victory after they blew a 10-point lead late in the fourth.
"That's the shots I want to take," he said. "I like when the pressure is on me. It lifts my game. I've got all the confidence in my game."