The Golden State Warriors found redemption on the path to winning a championship. After last year’s 3-1 NBA Finals collapse against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State overcame that nightmare by beating the same Cavs in merely a five-game series this time around.
Kevin Durant, this was your time, young man. Durant was utterly sensational for 39 points on 14-20 shooting to help the Warriors beat Cleveland by a 129-120 score. Whether it was LeBron James, Richard Jefferson, or any other Cleveland player, Durant roasted each opponent in his sight with an unbelievably clinical performance. His exceptional five-game run earned him the NBA Finals MVP trophy. For every Cleveland spark or timely James bucket, it was Durant who responded.
Along with Durant, Stephen Curry dropped 34 points on 10-20 shooting. His shot wasn’t exactly perfect (2-9 on threes), but Curry’s will was determined. He went 12-15 from the line and consistently drove for layups in response to Cleveland’s tight defense around the three-point line. While he didn’t take home the MVP honor, Curry without question put up his best Finals performance this year. Draymond Green posted a 10/12/5 line in 44 minutes and Klay Thompson had 11 points (3-7 on threes).
The Warriors went 51 percent from the floor overall and nearly 37 percent from deep. Golden State was also 23-28 from the line and had 13 turnovers. The Cavaliers actually outperformed its opponent in numerous areas – they shot 53 percent overall and about 46 percent on threes, but only went 15-23 from the line. They had 14 turnovers.
This was a strange game. Cleveland controlled the opening moments before Golden State shifted the momentum with a 38-23 second quarter. In that portion of Game 5, the vibe turned heated when David West and Kyrie Irving got tied up for a jump ball.
What happened was the following – West unnecessarily swiped towards Irving’s face, earning a tech, but Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith earned techs themselves by physically confronting West. Shockingly, the referees actually handled the situation perfectly. Aside from the scuffle, the surge West provided was desperately needed and ultimately instrumental in Game 5. Golden State was floundering prior to the insertion of West’s energy.
Speaking of Smith who I mentioned in the skirmish, my goodness. The man was hovering on a different planet in Game 5, going 9-11 from the floor and 7-8 on triples for 25 points. And no, these were not all wide open looks created by James, many of Smith’s hits were insanely tough.
What Smith did for Cleveland was what Andre Iguodala did for the Warriors (albeit in a different manner, simply saying both players are x-factors for their respective teams). Iguodala masterfully posted 20 points and logged 38 minutes, an uncommon amount for him. Patrick McCaw also played an unexpected 12 minutes and scored six points.
While Irving was strong early for the Cavs, he faltered late in the game (worth noting that Irving appeared to be battling numerous injuries). James went full John Wayne towards the end, daring any Cleveland teammate to join him, but Irving, Kevin Love, or anyone else in a Cleveland uniform was unable to live up to the moment. Love was in foul trouble and finished with a 6/10/2 line. Tristan Thompson had a quality game with 15 points and eight rebounds, but his series overall wasn’t to his strengths.
In the end, Golden State overcame last year’s 3-1 failure and the subsequent mockery that ensued from social media and the general NBA world. We entered tonight with a Warriors 3-1 lead, and considering Durant’s presence, Green not being suspended as he was during last year’s Game 5, and the improved health of Curry, this time around, the dynamics were different.
Those changed dynamics reversed the team hoisting up the hardware. It was Cleveland’s time last year – this season belonged to Golden State. Thank you to all of those who followed our NBA content for Hardwood and Hollywood. See you next season.