Warriors down Cavaliers to win second NBA championship in three seasons
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) celebrates with Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the fourth quarter in Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena on Monday night. Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Exactly five years ago Kevin Durant faced LeBron James in his first NBA finals matchup, ultimately losing 4-1. This year the tables were turned. Durant led the Golden State Warriors to a 129-120 victory over James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5, earning his first championship. It is the supremely gifted Warriors’ second title in three years.
Durant, who was later named the series MVP, put in another great performance, scoring 39 points and becoming the first player with five straight 30-point games in the finals since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000. “It’s just a great group of guys, great community, great arena, great fans,” Durant said after the game. “I’m just so happy to be a part of it. I can’t wait to celebrate with my team-mates in the locker room.”
Stephen Curry and Durant combined for 41 points in the first half, their most in this postseason. Golden State are the first team to score at least 100 points in every game of the playoffs. “We learned from everything we’ve been through,” Curry said. “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 [the trophy] back home, I’m just excited to do something special. I’m ready to do it again.”
The fans at Oracle Arena stayed on their feet the entire game and erupted in cheers with every dunk, block and steal. You could feel the seats shake when the Warriors went on a streak to close the final quarter, sealing their victory. As the confetti fell from the rafters, Queen’s We Are The Champions blared from the speakers as a visibly emotional Durant hugged his team-mates (and even whispered something to James).
“If Kevin Durant was the consolation prize for losing [last year’s finals], thanks for that loss,” Draymond Green said of his team-mate.
The Cavaliers, trying to defend their title and keep their playoff hopes alive, got off to a hot start and led in the first quarter. They continued to capitalize on the Warriors’ mistakes, scoring seven points in 18 seconds after Golden State turned over the ball twice.
But head coach Steve Kerr made adjustments early to ensure Cleveland didn’t get too far ahead. It all began to turn around when they brought out the Death Lineup, taking out Zaza Pachulia (who failed to score the entire game) and subbing in Andre Iguodala. Iguodala, the 2015 finals Most Valuable Player, continued to have tremendous impact from the bench. He added 20 points and ran from across the court to score a wide-open dunk, one of the best plays of the entire series.
James and Kyrie Irving didn’t go down without a fight. They attacked the rim and tried to carry their team to victory, but a combined 67 points weren’t enough.
The entire team only made about 65% of their free throws and allowed 14 turnovers. Kevin Love all but disappeared, losing the momentum he had built during the rest of the series. He had 0 points going into halftime and ended with only 6, and he wasn’t much more help on defense.
With one of the NBA’s fiercest rivalries comes intense play. Each team kept collecting fouls, with players such as Durant and Green getting two apiece in the first half alone. When James dunked on Durant, many thought Durant should have gotten his third foul of the game and sat out the rest of the first half.
Players broke out into a scuffle when David West and Tristan Thompson got in each other’s faces in the second quarter after West ripped the ball from Irving. The Cavaliers got two technical fouls and Warriors got one for the incident.
The Warriors will start planning their victory parade while the Cavaliers will head back to Cleveland to regroup. Many suspect a rematch in next June’s finals is a given.
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