The Golden State Warriors, NBA champions, were so clearly the deeper, more athletic, more skilled team in these NBA finals. So much was made of LeBron James’ singular brilliance, in the face of injuries to his All-Star teammates. Yes, James was the reason Cleveland took a 2-1 series lead, the reason the Finals stretched to six games. His performance seemed to overshadow everything in this year’s Finals.
Years from now, sports fans may remember James’ big numbers. But mostly, they’ll marvel at how the Warriors won it all.
They did it with a wizard, Stephen Curry, at point guard. Curry nailed three key threes in Golden State’s 105-97 Game 6 victory in Cleveland Tuesday night, because that’s what he does. In the clincher, however, the regular-season MVP’s passing stood out. He patiently let the Cavs double-team him far from the basket – what choice did the Cavs have against a guy who can sink shots from Cincinnati? – and hit cutters down the lane. Or flipped one-handed passes down low. Or skipped the ball cross-court, or into the corner, to open three-point shooters. Curry had eight assists. Golden State finished with 13 three-pointers.
How deep is Golden State? The MVP of the series, Andre Iguodala, didn’t start a game the whole regular season, and can barely hit a foul shot (he shot 6-21 in Games 5 and 6). In Game 6 a guy named Festus Ezeli, who played three minutes, and scored no points, in Games 4 and 5, sparked the Warriors by scoring nine points in the last four minutes of the third quarter. Draymond Green finished Game 6 with a triple double: 16 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists. Harrison Barnes shot 3-4 from downtown.
Once Golden’s State first year coach, Steve Kerr, decided to stick with a small lineup against Cleveland in Game 4, his Warriors didn’t lose again. Soccer is called the beautiful game. But basketball, as the Warriors played it Tuesday night, is mighty pretty too. The ball zipped around, and almost always found the open man. No plodding here. Just speed. Just fun.
In the fourth quarter, LeBron James’ legs were shot. His attempts fell consistently short. It took a few Hail Marys from J.R. Smith, a shooter who went missing for most of the series, to keep it close. But when you looked at the players on the floor, no way could the Cavs keep it any closer. For example Matthew Dellavedova, the Game 3-grit hero, looked like he didn’t belong on an NBA court.
Cleveland should feel no shame. The more deserving team won the title. The gunslinging Golden State Warriors: small, unselfish, and simply unforgettable.