June 13, 2017
Sports Insider Weekly
For the second time in three years, the Golden State Warriors are NBA Champions. After an intense matchup that saw uncommon struggles and missed shots by the West Coast team, they ran away with the game in the final quarter, besting the Cavs 129-120 to claim their second title in three years. It was the dream ending for a team that famously blew a 3-1 series lead a year ago to go home empty handed after their record-breaking regular season.
Confetti rained down on Oracle Arena as the buzzer sounded, but the celebratory ending wasn’t so predictable just a few hours earlier. Golden State got off to a rocky start, trailing by as many as eight in the beginning of the second quarter. By the half, they had regrouped, outscoring Cleveland by 38-15 for an 11-point half-time lead.
The Cavs kept in close in the second half, cutting the deficit to five by the end of the third quarter. But their defense faltered in the final act, unable to prevent the Warriors from extending their lead to double digits until the final seconds. By then, the Oakland crowd had already started celebrating.
“I left everything on the floor every game,” LeBron James said after scoring an impressive 41 points on Monday night.
Kyrie Irving and JR Smith combined for 51 points–more than Steph Curry (34), Klay Thompson (11) and Draymond Green (10) combined. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the team as a whole–potentially one of the best ever assembled. They were even stronger than last year with the off-season addition of Kevin Durant, who joined the Warriors as a free agent after spending his eight years of his career with Oklahoma City.
“It’s just a great group of guys, great community, great arena, great fans,” Durant, who finished with 39 points, said. “I’m just so happy to be a part of it.”
While players like Curry and Thompson already have a title, the victory was especially sweet for first-time Champ Durant. The nine-year NBA veteran averaged at least 30 points in all five Finals games and was named the series MVP. His only previous Finals appearance was in 2012, when the Thunder lost to James and the Miami Heat, 4-1.
While last year’s loss to the Cavaliers may have hurt, it also made the Warriors stronger, and more prepared–and appreciative–for Monday night’s victory.
“We learned from everything we’ve been through,” Curry said during the trophy presentation. “Our perspective, being blessed to play on this stage three years in a row, it’s for these fans, for our organization, for these families. To be back here, bring ol’ Larry back home, I’m just excited to do something special. I’m ready to do it again.”