A Golden Era: Warriors clean up Cavaliers with a sweep, capture third NBA title in four seasons.
Having a core group largely under 30 and in the prime of there careers, with possibly the best stadium in the NBA prepared to open in San Francisco in 2019 don’t expect this core group to split anytime soon.
Focus on too long on which might have been or what might be in the future, and you’re going to overlook what these Golden State Warriors are right here and right now.
That game they coughed up in 2016 following leading the Cleveland Cavaliers 3-1 is long gone now. Whatever the Warriors’ quad-core center group will do in the long run has yet to be determined.
What they’re now, however, after demolishing the Cavaliers 108-85 Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena, is precisely who and what we believed they would be this year: the most notable team in basketball for the second consecutive season.
The Warriors defended their name, beating the Cavaliers on their way to the first sweep in The Finals since the San Antonio Spurs did the same to a youthful LeBron James-led team with this floor in 2007.
They looked as critical, as dominant and as devastating as they have all season on this last night, running circles round the Cavaliers after halftime at a runaway affair. This was the ninth sweep in Finals history and the greatest margin of victory (+60) at a sweep.
The Warriors wore the bullseye the rest of the league chased all season, the one the angry fans of other teams griped about all season and wore it well as the formerly lovable team individuals abruptly love to hate.
“That’s how you know we’re a great team is if everybody’s coming after us,” Durant said. “Whether it’s opponents, while it’s different coaches panning for us, while it’s the fans, the press that despise us, it feels good when you’re the group that everybody’s gunning for. It makes us better. This makes us come to perform and try to play that championship level each and every day, and that’s the toughest part.
“But, you know, I’m glad we could lock in, especially in the playoffs, and also do exactly what we were supposed to do to win this thing”
The fourth right time against a clearly overmatched James and this newest iteration of the Cavaliers, was over early in the Warriors’ favourite third quarter, which place all year where they’ve separated themselves from the competition.
Kevin Durant won his second straight Finals MVP and finished with a 20-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double. He has gone from a celebrity in search of a ring two summers ago into a man with one for every ring finger.
Stephen Curry, the two-time Kia MVP who missed the first six matches of the postseason recovering from a knee injury, capped off this series with a game-high 37 points, saving some of his best work from space for what might be the final twist using a LeBron-led Cavaliers team.
James heads off into free agency July 1 sporting a cast on his right arm, courtesy of a self-inflicted injury following the Cavaliers late-game meltdown in the opener. His future destination as uncertain right today as it had been four years ago when he left Miami to return home.
There’s not any such uncertainty surrounding these Warriors. They have now shoved their way to the dialogue about the best teams ever assembled. You don’t storm into three titles in four years, set the regular-season wins list at 73 two years back, and not gain entrance in that elite club.
The fact that their core team of Curry, Durant and All-Stars Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are 30 or younger and in the primes of their various livelihood, is the most terrifying part for the remainder of the league.
They’re this great, this dominant now — James went to the bench for good with just over four minutes to perform along with the Warriors leading 102-77 — also could keep advancing.
The Warriors are piled for the foreseeable future so long as they’re fairly healthy, they’ll continue to be a roadblock for almost any other team in the NBA with championship aspirations, including whatever team LeBron plays .
LeBron has dominated that the Eastern Conference for eight straight years, the first four in Miami along with the last four here in his native Northeast Ohio.
He played all 82 games for the first time in his career, 15 years deep into his storied career. He delivered the Cavaliers by the brink of elimination in the initial round against Indiana, swept top-seeded Toronto from the conference semifinals and then rescued the Cavaliers from the brink of elimination at the Eastern Conference finals against Boston, leading his team to a Game 7 win on the road to make it back here.
“To be the best player in the world and to give everything you’ve got in your 15th season, play 82 games, most likely one of the greatest playoff runs which we’ll ever see from a person, to carry this team how he did all year and leading by example, it is only a testament to his character and that he is as a person and as a player,” said Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue. “He had a lot of chances where he could have sat from matches and had been going through a difficult stretch and was not playing nicely, but he didn’t wish to do that. And a lot of guys would have folded under these circumstances, but he did not. He’s a poor boy, and I love having him on our staff. He fights and competes towards the end.
“Sometimes you may give everything you have and come up short. I thought that’s exactly what our group of men did in this series. That’s about it.”
No matter James decides to perform in free service , whether that’s leave for a new opportunity elsewhere or remain here and try to mount another Finals run in gold and wine, the Warriors will still be waiting at the end of the line.
Since the desire for more of the remains for Durant, Curry, Green, Thompson and the remaining Warriors, who won their first title on this floor in 2015.
They’ve grown accustomed to celebrating these moments away from house.
They had been on the verge of elimination at the Western Conference finals two weeks before, down 3-2 to the Houston Rockets and without home court advantage against their new rivals, who added Chris Paul via trade last summer to a James-Harden-led cast especially designed to take them down.
However, with Paul out with a hamstring injury the final two games, the Warriors awakened and rebounded for a Game 6 win at Oracle Arena plus a Game 7 romp at Toyota Center to lock down he fourth straight date together with the Cavaliers at The Finals.
They lived Game 1, having a George Hill missed free throw and a J.R. Smith gaffe at the end of law, to supply the space to their overtime win.
Curry went atomic with a Finals record nine made 3-pointers to spark their Game 2 win in Oakland. And Durant did the honors here in Wednesday’s Game 3, roasting the Cavaliers for 43 points, including a decisive 3-pointer in what was a one-point game in the last second, 13 rebounds and seven assists to install Friday night’s clincher.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr talked all year long of the fourth campaign being the toughest. The Rockets passed them up in the standings during the regular season.
“Extremely hard. Not just the playoff run, this whole season,” Green said of the heavy lifting it needed to win it again. “You’re coming from a championship and you are expected to get back to that level for Game 1 of 82. Like it is tough. You know, he had time where he missed. Kevin, myself, Klay, Steph, Jordan Bell, like it, men missed time. All of the harms we went through while going through that mill of trying to get back to this place was extremely tough.
“However, we pride ourselves on our depth, and at several times in the season, our thickness stepped up. You understand, even during the playoffs, Andre heading down, Steph beginning the playoffs out, like other guys stepped up, and that’s what’s critical.”
And they looked mortal early in the playoffs with no Curry, after winning their first 15 playoff games with Durant en route to last year’s title.
The grind of playing to the last night of this season for a fourth straight season, the tear and wear accrued and the exhausting physical and emotional toll uninterrupted championship emptiness takes on any group can be overwhelming.
But maybe not for this group.
“I remember sitting in the area three decades ago, it seemed like a dream.,” Kerr said. “This seems more like reality. And I hope that does not sound arrogant. It’s just that is the talent we all have, and that is the experience we have gained. But it is a really different sense. It’s still euphoric, but three decades back was I can’t believe that happened, and today it is I can definitely believe this happened, but it had been challenging, and it becomes increasingly harder as you go through.
“Next year will be even harder. I may not show up until All-Star break because they’re not likely to hear me anyhow. Thank you.”
Kerr was in a lively mood after the game and it had been well-earned. The Warriors basked in the glow of this latest triumph. Durant dancing with the Larry O’Brien and Bill Russell decorations throughout the post-game celebration in the middle of the court, while Curry, Green, Thompson, 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala and the remainder of the crew followed suit as they posed for pictures.
“Get used to it,” Thompson said,”because we’re just getting started.”