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.
LeBron James steals pass, takes off for dunk (video)
If you’re going to float the ball over Timofey Mozgov, you better get it close to orbit before it comes down.
Stephen Curry does that here.
The Warriors started 1of-4 for shooting, while Cavaliers got points in the paint, and the Cavs raced out to a 7-2 lead. That didn’t last long. The Warriors came back on a 9-1 run to take the lead back on a Curry corner three. Not long later this came. And the Warriors led by 13 by the end of the first quarter.
Finals MVP is three-man race, but is LeBron James the frontrunner?
It is possible — I would suggest even likely — that the NBA Finals will end on Tuesday night in Cleveland. Which means the MVP trophy would be voted on by select members of the media, then handed out.
And for the first time since 1969 and “The Logo” Jerry West was putting up ridiculous numbers, a player on the losing side could win the award.
With only a game or two left in the NBA season, the Finals MVP is down to a three-man race. Maybe two with a dark horse is a better way to put it. And how the final games play out will have a factor in the voting — we all often value most what impressed most recently. It’s human nature.
Here are the three guys that can win it, in the order I think is most likely to happen.
1) Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. He is on top for this simple reason: Voters want to pick someone from the winning team. Some might even say the winner has to come from the winning team (I disagree, but the sentiment is out there). If he has another brilliant shooting night and owns Game 6 as the Warriors close it out, expect him to win.
And he deserves to be on this list. Curry has been the game-changer in this series, you could see in the fourth quarter of Game 3 he had finally figured out Matthew Dellavedova and the Cavaliers’ defense. In the fourth quarter of Game 5, he dropped 17, hit some signature baskets and put his stamp on the series. He has been the leading scorer and (arguably) best player on the best team. But I think he needs a big Game 6 to secure the MVP award.
2) LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers. If you’re going to pick the single best player in the NBA Finals to win the MVP it’s not eve close, it goes to LeBron. What else could he do? Sell beer on the concourse during timeouts? His statistics are ridiculous: He has averaged 36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. Or look at it this way: on LeBron’s shots, assists, and the offensive rebounds off his shots the Cavaliers have an eFG% of 51.6 percent, on all other shots not created by LeBron it is 30.7 percent. He has largely controlled the tempo of the series. He has been their offense — and played well on defense. There is no question who the single best player in this series has been. But if the award for “most valuable” has to go to a guy on the winning team, then LeBron is out of luck.
“I wouldn’t feel good about it at all,” James said. “At the end of the day I’m here to win a team prize, and that’s to win a championship, not an individual prize.”
3) Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors.We’ve already made the case for him as MVP. He has averaged 14.6 points per game on 54.9 percent shooting, he has it 40.7 percent from three, plus he has guarded LeBron most of the series and done a respectable job on him. The Warriors are not on the cusp of a title without him. If Curry doesn’t have a monster Game 6, Iguodala does, the Warriors win, and voters are looking for a Curry alternative, Iguodala is in the mix. Consider him a dark horse.