2017-06-13 01:14:02
Warriors 129, Cavaliers 120: Warriors Win N.B.A. Title, and Avenge Themselves Against the Cavaliers

01:14, June 13 315 0

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors will forever be known as one of the most talented teams in the history of the N.B.A., along with a hefty set of other superlatives: most dominant, most dazzling, most adept at hitting shots from distant galaxies. But for all their astonishing skill, the Warriors were determined, too.

Determined to make amends for last season. Determined to escape the clutches of LeBron James. And determined to restore themselves as champions.

On Monday night, before an exultant crowd at Oracle Arena, where gold confetti fluttered from the ceiling at the final buzzer, the Warriors put the last dab of polish on a gilded season by surging to their second championship in three years with a 129-120 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals.

Golden State won the best-of-seven series by four games to one, capping a commanding postseason run. The Warriors went 16-1, their lone loss coming to the Cavaliers in Game 4, and largely turned a succession of high-powered opponents into stage props. It was the basketball equivalent of lapping the field.

After two lopsided losses, the Cavaliers at least made the series competitive and highly entertaining. But the Warriors’ star power — including Kevin Durant, whom they signed last summer for expressly this pressure-cooker purpose — prevailed over James, Kyrie Irving and the rest of the Cavaliers.

On Monday, Durant was at his long-limbed best, doing his part to snuff every rally that the Cavaliers could muster. He scored 39 points and was named the series’ most valuable player.

Stephen Curry had 34 points and 10 assists in the win. The Warriors also got a huge game from Andre Iguodala, who scored 20 points off the bench in addition to defending James for long stretches.

James delivered the Full LeBron: 41 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists, a typical postseason effort for him. Irving score 26 points, and J. R. Smith added 25.

The teams were coming off two tightly contested games in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers had salvaged some hope. On Monday, the Warriors took an 11-point lead into the second half. After the Cavaliers cut it to 4 late in the third quarter, Durant connected on a 3-pointer, and the crowd seemed to exhale.

The Warriors maintained their cushion in the fourth. After the Cavaliers’ Kyle Korver made a 3-pointer, Durant got inside for a dunk. Curry followed that up by whipping a pass to Iguodala for another slam, and the Warriors were up by 10. Inside the building, cautious optimism gave way to full-blown jubilation as the final minutes ticked away.

“The finals are hard,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said before the game. “It’s the two best teams in the league, and both teams are trying to take things away from each other. So you have to adapt.”

This was the third straight finals meeting between the Warriors and the Cavaliers. After Golden State won in 2015, Cleveland put together an unprecedented comeback to take the championship last season. That series, which went a full seven games, was packed with drama and ended with James leading the Cavaliers to their first title in franchise history.

It was a deflating end for the Warriors, who had set a record by winning 73 games in the regular season. But they regrouped last summer by luring Durant away from the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency. Kerr and his All-Star cast met with Durant in the Hamptons on Long Island and sold him on a delicious future: the chance to win multiple titles, to be a key cog on a forever team.

The addition of Durant was not universally celebrated. Durant was accused by some of pursuing the easiest path to a championship. The Warriors, too, were criticized for somehow becoming too good, for creating a parity problem — as if they should have passed on the chance to sign Durant out of concern for the good of the league.

It was a curious argument — teams generally do whatever they can to win — and the Warriors, with Durant in the mix, treated their regular-season opponents like roadkill.

They stuck to that script through the first three rounds of the playoffs. The Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers, the Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs. If the Warriors got some breaks — Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs’ best player, missed the final three games of the Western Conference finals with a sprained ankle — they dealt with adversity, too.

In the first round, Kerr stepped away from his day-to-day duties to seek treatment for complications stemming from back surgery. Without him on the bench, the Warriors won 11 straight games under Mike Brown — an assistant who became the acting head coach — including the finals opener against Cleveland. Kerr returned for Game 2, and the team kept humming.

As the series wore on, the Warriors found themselves fending off more than just the Cavaliers. Several former N.B.A. stars piped up to make the case that their old teams could have beaten the Warriors. Among them: Magic Johnson, who contended that the Los Angeles Lakers of the Showtime era would have swept Golden State. Kerr, in turn, brushed those comments aside.

“They would all kill us,” Kerr said, deadpan, last week. “The game gets worse as time goes on. Players are less talented than they used to be. The guys in the ’50s would’ve destroyed everybody. It’s weird how human evolution goes in reverse in sports. Players get weaker, smaller, less skilled. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.”

For Game 5, the Cavaliers broke out their black “shirseys,” the same uniforms they had worn here for their greatest triumph: Game 7 of last year’s finals. And they played fearless basketball once again, sinking six of their first seven field-goal attempts. They led by as many as 8 in the first quarter.

But the Warriors rallied, scoring 15 straight points to take a 54-43 lead in the second quarter. Durant, who was exceptional in the first half, scoring 21 points while shooting 7 of 10 from the field, made a 3-pointer to push the lead to 15. The first half also featured a few extracurriculars, including a scuffle that starred the Warriors’ David West. Golden State took a 71-60 lead into halftime.

The Warriors, despite their mass of individual talent, were a true collaboration. Consider their willingness to pass the ball in the finals: 147 assists on 216 field goals. The Cavaliers, who leaned so heavily on James and Irving, had just 108 assists on 208 field goals.

Durant, of course, gave his new team the biggest assist of all.