Durant powers Warriors over Cavaliers to claim title
Sparked by 39 points from Kevin Durant and 34 from Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors won their fifth NBA title Monday, beating Cleveland 129-120 to capture the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons.
Golden State took the best-of-seven series 4-1, reclaiming the throne they lost to the Cavaliers a year ago. The Warriors completed a 16-1 playoff run, the best post-season win percentage in NBA history.
It was the first career NBA title for Durant, who left Oklahoma City last July to join the Warriors amid expectations he and Golden State would fill trophy cases.
“I couldn’t sleep for two days,” Durant admitted. “I was anxious. I was jittery. I just wanted to put it all out there.
“We battled. But we did it. We’re champions. And we’re celebrating on our home court.”
Durant, who was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, became the first player with five consecutive 30-point performances in the NBA Finals since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.
The Warriors also won titles in 1947 and 1956, when the team was based in Philadelphia, and took the crown in 1975 and 2015 after moving to the San Francisco Bay area, but had never clinched a title at home.
“These guys are so gifted and committed to each other and so unselfish,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s a combination of talent and an unselfish nature.”
LeBron James scored 41 points to lead the Cavaliers. He also had 13 rebounds and eight assists, giving him a triple-double average for the finals, an unprecedented feat.
But James, in his seventh consecutive playoff series and eighth overall, fell to 3-5 in the championship round.
Kyrie Irving added 26 points and J.R. Smith 25 in a losing cause.
“Lebron and Kyrie, I’ve never seen nothing like them,” Durant said. “LeBron was the only person I’ve looked at that could look me eye to eye.”
– ‘Just want to do it again’ –
After dropping last year’s title to Cleveland making the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history from a 3-1 deficit, the Warriors vowed not to stumble again.
“We’ve learned from everything we’ve been through to bring (the trophy) back home,” Curry said. “I’m just proud to be part of something special and I just want to do it again.”
Excitement was high for the contest. Two courtside seats reportedly went for $133,000 on the resale market while other confirmed resale prices for pairs of seats were at $82,000 and $90,000.
James hit a layup to open the fourth quarter and pull Cleveland within 98-95, as close as the Cavs had been in the second half after trailing by 17 in the second quarter.
Golden State responded with a 10-3 run, Durant scoring five as the Warriors stretched their margin back to 108-98.
Kyle Korver’s 3-pointer pulled the Cavaliers within 108-102 but dunks by Durant and Andre Iguodala boosted Golden State’s lead to 110-102 and the Warriors kept Cleveland at bay, a Durant driving layup stretching Golden State’s edge to 118-106 with five minutes remaining.
From there, the Warriors defense stiffened and the Cavaliers congratulated the Warriors as the finals seconds ticked off the clock and the crowd went wild.
“This is a great group of guys, great community, great fans,” Durant said. “I can’t wait to celebrate with my teammates.”
– Warriors seize lead early –
After leading from start to finish in game four, the Cavaliers began aggressively Monday as well.
Irving and James turned back-to-back steals into impressive tone-setting layups as part of a 16-3 Cleveland run for an 20-12 edge, James hitting 4-of-5 for 10 points at the start. The Cavaliers made 15 of 24 shots in the first quarter to seize a 37-33 lead, James and Irving each scoring 12 points in the period, as did Curry for Golden State.
James made a fast-break slam dunk over Durant for a 41-33 Cleveland lead, the Warriors forward getting away with a blow to James’s head that would have brought his third foul early in the second quarter.
Golden State answered with a game-turning 27-4 run, slam dunks by Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green and three Durant 3-pointers spicing the spurt that produced a 60-45 Warriors lead. Durant’s 11 points and Golden State’s attacking defensive work powered the surge.
That’s when tensions and emotions bubbled over after a heated rebound battle, leading to a face-to-face confrontation between Golden State’s David West and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson.
Both were joined by Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith in getting technical fouls with 3:08 remaining in the second quarter before cooler heads prevailed, although James yelled at Durant for an extended span over the incident.
The Warriors kept a 71-60 half-time lead but the Cavaliers trimmed the deficit in the third quarter, Smith sinking a three-pointer to pull Cleveland within 98-93 entering the fourth quarter.
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