Here we go again.
Up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series — with the Warriors coming off of their first loss of the postseason — fans could be forgiven for thinking back to last year’s Finals. That time, the Cavaliers won three straight, including two on the road, to score perhaps the NBA’s greatest Finals comeback ever.
This time, the Warriors brought help.
Kevin Durant scored 39 points and seven rebounds on 14-of-20 shooting from the field, including a slew of second half post-up possessions that saw him ether all comers with turnaround jumpers, drives to the rim, and step-backs. The Slim Reaper would go on to win the Bill Russell Finals MVP.
Stephen Curry had 34 points of his own on 20 shots, along with 10 assists and six boards in what will surely go down as one of the best runner-up Finals MVP performances ever. His epic three pointer over Kyrie Irving in the last two minutes was the final dagger in the season (and a healthy reminder that he’s, you know, Stephen Curry).
2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala was precisely as good as we remembered, with 20 points and elite defense off the bench. His rim-rattling tomahawk slam in the second quarter ignited Oracle arena and kicked off a game-changing 30-8 scoring run. In the fourth quarter, he took up the challenge of checking “the en fuego” Kyrie Irving, slowing him up in the late stages of the game.
And they weren’t alone.
All-Stars Draymond Green and Klay Thompson ran into foul trouble, yet played smart and intense defense in the second half to anchor Golden State. The Warriors received contributions from each and every player on the roster this postseason, and the team went nine-deep tonight without fear. Rookie Patrick McCaw had a couple of deft scoring plays
(and an all-time wtf foul when Kyrie Irving tripped on his own get at me). David West did David West things, bringing toughness on the glass, and “S-Dot” Shaun Livingston was silky smooth as always.
It was a stark contrast to see Strength in Numbers running up against one of the most top-heavy great teams in recent memory. While the Cavaliers collectively held their breath each time LeBron James or Irving stole a moment on the bench, the Warriors consistently saw quality play throughout the night.
Credit the Cavaliers for making this a series. Whatever your thoughts on Game 4, the Cavs competed each night and did their best to score an all-time great upset. But the Warriors just wouldn’t be denied. They had waited two whole years to hold the Larry O’Brien trophy again. Hopefully the sting of last year’s defeat is enough to make them hold on tighter this time.
More quick thoughts
Sorry Bram, but internet trolls will still asterisk this. “Kevin Durant? Weak.”
Steve Kerr becomes the fourth coach in NBA history with two titles in his first three seasons (really...fourth!?).
Draymond Green on the podium (paraphrasing): If Kevin Durant was the consolation prize for 2016, thanks for the loss!
Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. That is all.
LeBron James is like political coverage on cable news. He’ll pick a talking point, and he’ll hammer it. Did you know the Warriors signed Kevin Durant?
J.R. Smith, perhaps the most frustratingly unpredictable player in league history, was 9-of-11 for 25 points. He even had a chance for a four point play in the final minutes, but he bricked the free throw.
After all of the 3-1 jokes, after all of the baked cookies and cupcakes, after the mock corpse of Stephen Curry was strewn across LeBron James’ doorstep, and after an Ultimate Warrior shirt was his attire of choice, we should take a good, long time and enjoy the hell out of this one.
Enjoy it until next season.