Tuesday, June 13, 2017

NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors Win NBA Title by Downing Cavaliers in Game 5

NBA Finals

Stephen Curry

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison's Flickr page - Stephen Curry: https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/5493668904

LeBron James
Photo courtesy of Keith Allison's Flickr Page - LeBron James: https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/15662939969

NBA Finals Champions:

Golden State Warriors

It was the first time in NBA history that two franchises managed to meet in three straight NBA Finals, which made this rivalry suddenly legendary. Perhaps we might remember this rivalry almost on the level of the Celtics and Lakers from back in the day. Ir reminds me personally of the major football rivalries between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers back in the early 1990's, when whoever got the best of the rivalry that particular season was almost assured of winning the championship. Or, more recently, the intensity of the rivalry between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts.

Indeed, few sports rivalries in general have been quite as incredible as this one, as it pits the two most dominant teams in the sport in recent years. The Golden State Warriors with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and this season, Kevin Durant. The Cleveland Warriors with LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving.

What made this rivalry significant was not just the big name players involved, but also the level of play that the two teams managed to bring out in one another. It seemed that they both brought out the best in each other.

Two years ago, the Golden State Warriors managed to break through the shadow of years, and even decades, of mediocrity to basque in the warm sunshine of success. They enjoyed an incredible 67-15 mark, earning the best record in the league with an unstoppable offensive machine. They capped that season with the NBA crown, their first in four decades.

Last season, the Warriors were on fire, smashing all sorts of records during an breathtaking regular season. They started off 24-0, which was the best start that any professional sports team had ever seen. They became the first team in NBA history not to drop two consecutive games during the regular season, en route to their historic 73-9 mark, which was better than any team in NBA history. They won 34 road games, more than any other team in history. Stephen Curry won his second straight league MVP award, but became the first player to win it unanimously. Indeed, it was the kind of regular season that would be remembered for decades to come.

And on some levels, that was the problem, because ultimately, a great team will be remembered for what they did, or in this case, what they did not do, once in the playoffs.

Golden State breezed through the first two rounds as expected, beating Houston and then Portland, four games to one in each series. But then they were severely tested by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who managed to hand the Warriors two straight defeats for the first time all season, en route to taking a commanding three games to one lead in the series. But the Warriors fought back to win the series, three games to one.

In the NBA Finals, the Warriors looked dominant, obliterating Cleveland in the first two games. After the next two games in Cleveland, the Warriors owned a commanding three games to one lead themselves, and seemed in position to clinch a second straight championship at home in Game 5. 

This year, the Warriors went 67-15, which would normally be seen as an extraordinarily awesome record. However, after last season's record setting 73-9 campaign - the most dominant regular season in NBA history - was followed by an epic collapse in the NBA Finals after taking a three games to one lead, only to lose it in seven, nobody was focused on the team's regular season success. Instead, it was all about the playoffs.

But man, were the Warriors ready for the playoffs this year!

Golden State became the first team in North American professional sports history to start off with a 15-0 record in the playoffs, before losing Game 4 in Cleveland. But any doubts, any possibilities that the Cavaliers might repeat the kind of epic comeback that they managed last year were squelched with what wound up being a convincing Warriors victory tonight.

To be fair, the Cavs kept it close throughout, even managing to stay in it deep into the fourth quarter, despite how well the Warriors were playing. But eventually, Golden State just proved too much, and a flurry of points late in the game secured their second championship in three seasons.

Steven Kerr, who was a player for the legendary 1995-96 NBA Champion Chicago Bulls, the first team to surpass the 70 win mark during the regular season, and who also was the head coach for Golden State during last year's record setting 73-9 regular season, has now won two titles in his three seasons as head coach of the Warriors. He showed he had a sense of humor after this victory, as well, as he said, tongue in cheek, “We have very little talent, actually, it was most coaching.”  But he grew a bit more serious after that, suggesting that he has the best job in the world.

Kevin Durant was given the Bill Russell trophy as the NBA Finals MVP, as he averaged over 35 points per game throughout the series. He was picked up by Golden State after their defeat in the NBA Finals last season, and became instant favorites to win the NBA crown this season. Having fulfilled that, Durant now has his first championship ring, and mused that he and LeBron James are now even in NBA Finals series (James defeated Durant in the Finals back when the Heat defeated OKC, which Durant was then a member of). With the addition of Durant, the Warriors truly look like an emerging dynasty.

Warriors Look Like a Dynasty After Winning Another N.B.A. Championship by Benjamin Hoffman, June 12, 2017:

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