NBA playoffs 2022: These Golden State Warriors aren't surrendering their dynastic perch just yet

Painful, frustrating, demoralizing. That's closer to how Draymond Green would describe the two seasons in between the Golden State Warriors' last NBA Finals appearance in 2019 and this season's run to within one game of a return to the championship series after Sunday's 109-100 win against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals.

But there is one memory from the past two seasons that keeps coming back. "None of these people really removed us from this space," Green told ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk of the team missing the playoffs the previous two seasons.

"Toronto beat us, but no one really came and said, 'All right, the Golden State Warriors' time is up.'" For all his bluster and swagger, it's easy to forget Green has always been one of the most astute observers of the NBA.

The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title in 2020 while the Warriors stumbled to the worst record in the league with Green, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry missing all or significant portions of the season because of injuries. The Milwaukee Bucks won the title last season, while the Warriors were trying to groom their next generation of players to give their core another chance at reaching the biggest stage.

This season, young teams and superstars, like the three teams the Warriors have faced in these playoffs, began staking their claims on the NBA's future. But no team or organization have come close to supplanting the Warriors from their dynastic perch.

In the first round, Golden State took down two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. In the second round they bested Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies, the team that's often compared to them -- even directly, as Dillon Brooks brashly did -- during the early stages of their dynasty.

In these conference finals, the Warriors have given Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic the same type of attention and treatment they used to give to LeBron James: conceding his greatness and acknowledging he's probably going to score 40-plus no matter what they throw at him defensively.

"Luka is incredible," Green said of the Mavs' All-Star, who scored 40 points Sunday but finished minus-19 in 40 minutes. "His time is now. His time is next. He's a great player and he's going to be great for a long time."

The Warriors won, as they did in three out of four Finals' matchups against James, by limiting everyone else. Sunday they held Doncic's teammates to 36% shooting from the field and an atrocious 25% from 3.

It's the third time in these playoffs Doncic has scored 40 or more points in a loss, tied with James (2009), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1977) and Jerry West (1965) for most in a single postseason, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Over the next few weeks, much will be written and said about how the Warriors recast and reinvented themselves to get back to this stage. But maybe the better question is whether they ever really left it?