It ended up being a coronation for the modern NBA offense. Hopefully dispelling once and for all the idea that a jump-shooting team can’t win an NBA title.
Golden State was the best team in the NBA all season long. They were elite on offense, knocking down ridiculous threes, but they were elite on defense as well. They were te best team through the playoffs and into the NBA Finals.
Tuesday night Cleveland tried again to counter the small ball, up-tempo, ball movement offense of Golden State by going big. And the Cavs put up some points, center Timofey Mozgov finished with 17 points and the Cavaliers had 46 points in the paint.
But Cleveland could not get stops with that lineup. Then again, every team had trouble getting stops against the Warriors all season long. Stephen Curry had 25 points, Andre Iguodala chipped in 25 himself on the way to winning the Finals MVP.
Golden State beat the Cavaliers 105-97 to take the NBA Finals four games to two. This was the Warriors first title since 1975.
Golden State capped off one of the statistically best seasons in NBA history with an NBA title. One they had to earn on the road against the best player in the world — LeBron James did all he could finishing with 32 points (on 33 shots), 18 rebounds and nine assists.
“There’s been all this talk this year about the three point shot, can you win shooting it,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “There’s a lot of different styles that can work, you have to base it on your own personnel. But what was overlooked all year long is what really wins is the combination of great offense and great defense. We had the No. 1 defense in the league, we had the highest scoring team in the league. We were number one in assists, we were number one in field goal percentage defense. When you get that combination you’re going to be pretty good.”
Cleveland fans, desperate for a title that the city has not seen since 1964, can try to console themselves with how well this team played despite the loss of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to injuries in the playoffs. This team will be back to the Finals in the coming years.
“This is a process,” Warriors coach David Blatt said. “You don’t wake up one morning and fall out of bed and expect to win the NBA Championship. You hope that you can, but it doesn’t always work that way, and our guys did more than anyone could expect to put themselves and put our organization in this situation.”
But as it had been all season, the best was in the West.
“We were fortunate in a lot of ways this year, but maybe number one was health,” Kerr said. “To win a title there is obviously a lot of work, but a lot of luck as well. And we had a lot of luck on our side this year and our guys took advantage of that.”
Golden State expected a storm from a desperate Cleveland team to open the game. That happened. The Warriors started 1-of-4 for shooting, while the Cavaliers got points in the paint, jumping out to a 7-2 lead. That didn’t last long; the Warriors came back on a 9-1 run to take the lead on a Curry corner three. Golden State was back to playing its game — they assisted on 11 of first 12 buckets, shot 54.5 percent in the first quarter and led 28-15 after one.
But Golden State struggled to keep up the scoring pace in the second quarter, going 1-of-10 shooting. They attacked the rim but Mozgov had three blocks and was owning the paint. Cleveland got the lead down to two as they held Golden State to 27 percent shooting in the second quarter while LeBron had 11 of his 15 first-half points in the second.
It was 45-43 Warriors at the half, but it felt like LeBron was pacing himself, holding something back so they would not fade in the fourth quarter again. That or he was too gassed to take over. It may ultimately have been more of the latter, despite his once again impressive numbers.
Early in the third, the Warriors kept driving at Mozgov, and it still didn’t work, allowing the Cavaliers take a brief lead. Then the Warriors decided to kick out and shoot the three again, and the the Warriors went on a 16-4 run stretching the lead back out to 10. It felt like LeBron was going to take charge for a few moments, but he continued to play more facilitator.
The Warriors continued to get production from their bench, for example 10 points in 11 minutes from Festus Ezeli. That bench allowed them to rest their key starters for stretches and not fall apart, so their players were ready to make a push in the fourth. The Cavaliers could not do that with LeBron.
After three quarters, the Warriors led bench scoring 19-9 and the game 73-61.
Everyone kept waiting for the Cavaliers run in the fourth quarter, and it didn’t come until the final couple minutes, after the game seemed out of hand. They closed the gap all the way down to four in the last minute, but the Cavs had to foul and the Warriors hit just enough free throws to survive.
And win the first title for Bay Area hoop fans in 40 years.