The redemption song is over and the Golden State Warriors are the NBA champions again.
Even though LeBron James averaged a triple double, which has never been done in the history of the NBA Finals, the brilliance of James was not enough to get past the problems the Warriors provided for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Golden State missed becoming the first team to march through the playoffs undefeated, but they ended their playoff run with a 16-1 record, which still gave the Warriors the best winning percentage of any title team at .941. Destroying the Cleveland Cavaliers in only five games, they finished the finals with the second highest win average in history.
The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers, 129-120 June 12 to clinch the series 4-1.
The Warriors had entirely too much firepower for the Cavaliers to keep up with. We all expected their star players: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to be the stars they are and deliver, but it was the consistency of their bench players that outplayed the bench players of the Cavaliers.
With a much improved bench led by Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee, Shaun Livingston and David West, that “strength in numbers” slogan that has become such a staple the past few seasons shined all year long. It was showcased during Durant’s 19-game absence late in the regular season with a knee injury and by assistant coach Mike Brown stepping in for 11 postseason games to lead the way while head coach Steve Kerr was on leave.
They especially showed up in the finals, outscoring Cleveland’s bench in the series. In game five alone, the Warriors bench outscored the Cavs bench 35-7. Iguodala was a huge part of that, showing up in the close out game five, scoring 20 points with three rebounds and three assists.
Curry finished off an incredible finals series after all the talk about him shrinking under pressure last year, which allowed the Cavaliers to be the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA finals. Whether he was 100 percent or still suffering from an ankle injury, there was no doubt he was outplayed by Kyrie Irving in the 2016 finals.
All of the chatter would linger around him throughout the regular season and the postseason and it fueled him to deliver the outstanding finals show he put on and if it wasn’t for the incredible play by his counterpart Durant, he would have received his first finals MVP award.
Curry finished game five with 34 points, 10 assists and six rebounds as Golden State closed out its second title in three years after squandering a 3-1 lead a year ago. That was also a sting even superstar Durant knew all too much about and understood, because he too gave up a 3-1 lead to the Warriors just a round earlier with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant shot 14 for 20 and Curry, the two-time MVP who took a backseat to the new big star got acclimated, finished off an excellent postseason.
Green wasn’t a huge factor offensively, scoring just 10 points but as always it is the other things he does so well that make an impact on every game he plays in. In addition to his 10 points, he pulled down 12 rebounds and had five assists, recording himself another double-double.
He stayed on the court in a game that featured three technical fouls on one play with 3:08 left before halftime. Shockingly, he was not involved in that crucial play. West fought for the ball with Irving after grabbing the rebound, they got tangled up and Tristan Thompson entered the dispute as he and West went at each other face to face. J.R. Smith ran up and shoved West in the back. West, Thompson and Smith received technicals after the play was reviewed.
Green had sat out game five just a year ago after being suspended because of flagrant foul point accumulation after he swiped at James’ groin in game four. He stated following the clincher, “I had a letdown last year and if KD was the consolation prize to loss, thanks for the loss, and we’re the champs this year.”
With the game wrapped up they got Durant, who after the buzzer sounded did a little shake with Curry on the court before they slapped hands several times.
Two playful players found a way to coexist through all the questions and constant scrutiny, together and smiling as champs. “I’m happy for him,” Curry said. “You’ve got to call him a champ now.”
Shaquita Newton is a sports blogger. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.