Golden State Warriors 129 Cleveland Cavaliers 120: Kevin Durant and Steph Currie inspire Warriors to win back the NBA Championship as Cavaliers fall to 4-1 series defeat
The Independent Sport
The Golden State Warriors celebrate winning the NBA Finals after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1 Getty
The Golden State Warriors regained the NBA title from the Cleveland Cavaliers as a 129-120 win on Monday night sealed the finals series 4-1.
Kevin Durant scored 39 points and Stephen Curry 34 to spark celebrations around Oracle Arena in Oakland.
It was the third year in succession the two teams had met in the finals. Cleveland last season became the first team ever to overturn a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven finals but after falling 3-0 down this time around, they were only able to pull one game back before the Warriors finished the job.
LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 41 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists but it proved in vain as the home team came out on top.
Though the Cavaliers led 37-33 at the end of the first quarter, Golden State soon reasserted their dominance by winning the second 38-23 to lead 71-60 at half-time.
The Cavs narrowed the gap slightly in the third but the Warriors were able to keep their opponents at arm's length to wrap up a second title in three years.
Their superior depth proved vital, with Warriors bench players contributing 35 points - including 20 from Andre Iguodala - to just seven for the Cavs' back-ups.
Wrapping up the series in five games meant the Warriors came through the post-season with a 16-1 record, with only the defeat in game four keeping them from perfection.
Having added Durant last off-season to the talents of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green among others, it was perhaps hardly surprising they should sweep all before them.
But coach Steve Kerr, who only returned to the team in time for game two of the finals after a period of medical leave to deal with complications arising from back surgery, joked afterwards: "We have very little talent actually, it's mostly coaching!"
Speaking on ESPN and BT Sport, he added: "I've got the best job in the world, these guys are so gifted, so committed to each other and so unselfish.
"I want to say a special 'thank you' to (assistant) Mike Brown for keeping this ship sailing smoothly while I was out."
Durant was named finals MVP after scoring over 30 points in each of the five games - he averaged 35.2 per game across the series.
But he said: "It's a team sport. You want to achieve the highest honour in the team sport, which is winning the championship. To play with these guys is amazing."Most Popular Sponsored Features
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LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have been lighting up the scoreboard in the NBA Finals. And by examining the staggering number of times they have dribbled the basketball, we can see the stylistic difference between the two teams. (1:05)
This year is different, and the Cleveland Cavaliers will never repeat the avalanche of 3-point shooting and Kyrie Irving one-on-one brilliance that walloped the Golden State Warriors from jump street in Game 4. But in Cleveland, the Cavs bent some of the trend lines in this series more in their direction, and in ways that might be sustainable in another do-or-die game. 2017 NBA Opening Night
On opening night, the Warriors were stunned in Oakland and the Celtics' high hopes took a tumble.
The Cavs are dangerous. They believe. Golden State has to stamp out that belief tonight.
They slowed the pace a bit in Game 4, and leaned harder on the Warriors with sheer physicality that will take more of a toll the longer this series goes -- provided the officials allow it. Tristan Thompson woke up. And their two transcendent offensive fulcrums are gradually figuring out ways to puncture the Warriors' defense, just as they did over the last four games a year ago. LeBron can solve almost any defense if he sees it enough.
James and Irving have shifted their pick-and-roll attack from Stephen Curry to Golden State's trio of slow-footed centers -- Zaza Pachulia, the utterly hopeless JaVale McGee, and David West. They know the Warriors do not want to switch those behemoths onto Irving or James. Golden State's only alternative is to put two defenders on the ball until the defense can reset itself.
If the Cavs slip the ball through those traps, they ignite the kind of four-on-three passing sequences that fuel their 3-point shooting game. They have several tricks to make those passes easier. Sometimes, their screeners slip away before really setting a pick -- providing an easy passing lane for Irving and James. Richard Jefferson was especially crafty at this when Steve Kerr tried to hide Golden State's centers on him.
Golden State's help behind those plays wasn't as airtight and coordinated as it usually is. The Warriors blew some easy switches they normally make with a wink and a nod. Kevin Durant dialed back his frenzy defending LeBron on the ball. That stuff figures to change as the Warriors try to clinch at home.
Sometimes, Jefferson went the other way and held his picks like an offensive lineman:
The effect is small, but crucial: Jefferson grabs Andre Iguodala's arm, delaying him just enough so that Pachulia has to slide an extra step or two further toward LeBron. That leaves Jefferson more open than he might otherwise be, and that in turn requires more help away from the other Cavs.
Thompson brutalized Golden State defenders with wide, bulldozing picks that triggered the same ripple effects:
In Games 1 and 2, Irving and James were perhaps too patient driving against Pachulia in those situations. They pulled back to observe the lay of the land. That gave Golden State time to recover. They have since started going right at him the instant they sense an opening. That suddenness keeps the defense off-kilter. It can force Pachulia into switches he can't handle.
The obvious solution is for Kerr to play his centers less. The Warriors lost contact in Game 4 late in the first quarter, when a smaller Cleveland lineup with Kevin Love at center toyed over and over with McGee. Kerr even kept Pachulia on the floor during a brief third-quarter stretch in which Cleveland had LeBron at center.
Golden State is plus-21 in 53 minutes with Green at center, and just plus-4 in all other minutes for the series, per NBA.com. A new lineup with Durant at center turned Game 2. The "A" version of the vaunted Death Lineup has logged just 17 minutes in four games, partly due to Draymond Green's foul trouble. Golden State is an unthinkable plus-23 in those 17 minutes.
Kerr has never made any huge rotational adjustments with Golden State ahead in a series. He likes to play a lot of guys, and stick to what has gotten the Warriors this far. Editor's Picks
From prospect projections to the lottery and draft night, ESPN.com has complete coverage of the 2017 NBA draft.
Golden State has captured the 2017 NBA title. Read about the Finals and relive the Warriors' and Cavaliers' third straight championship collision.
Golden State also has a real fear of Thompson's rebounding. The Warriors see how it energizes the Cavs. They want big bodies out there to wall him off. They are probably also worried Green might get into even more severe foul trouble doing that grunt work over extra minutes. We have already seen Kerr use James Michael McAdoo as something of an in-between option -- a center-ish type who can switch a bit on defense. Don't be shocked if we see him again in Game 5.
Kerr should be more daring, even with a (say it with me) 3-1 lead. This isn't 2016. Stephen Curry is healthy, and Harrison Barnes has become Kevin Durant. The Death Lineup is powerful enough offensively to survive some Tristan Thompson swim move offensive rebounds. Ride with it early, just like Mike Brown did during his undefeated stint as interim head coach.
The wild card here is Iguodala's health. He looked springy in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but logged just 21 minutes in Game 4. He hasn't cracked 30 minutes in any Finals game, though three of them featured garbage time. He surpassed 30 minutes in five of seven Finals games a year ago, and hit at least the 37-minute mark in three.
Going centerless is dicier without Iguodala. The Warriors can slide Shaun Livingston into his spot -- the Coma Lineup -- but Livingston can't hold up as well guarding LeBron. Durant and Green can, but the Warriors might need them to guard Love and Tristan Thompson in some alignments.
Either way, when Golden State downsizes, the Cavs will go back to hunting Curry. He has navigated the pick-and-roll maze better this time around, but LeBron is so damn calculating -- and has discovered some new tactics.
Curry prefers to lunge out at LeBron, stall him, and get the hell out of the locomotive's way -- and back toward his guy (usually JR Smith). Just like Irving, LeBron spent the first two games surveying the scene and waiting out Curry's help.
Now he's lowering his shoulder and driving right into Curry, or squeezing through the corridor Curry's strategy leaves open:
Smith has been mixing up his technique, and darting away early for open triples or rolls to the rim. When Curry tries to switch his way out of a pick-and-roll, James just calls Curry's new mark up for a screen, even if it means he has to sift through five bodies to make a play.
The Cavs also found some funky ways to confuse the Warriors and punish Curry at the same time. As Curry's man -- Iman Shumpert below -- approached to screen for Irving, James nailed Curry with a separate pick.
LeBron's pick makes Iguodala think: "I usually switch, but if I do that, that means Steph is stuck on LeBron. But if I don't switch, Steph is gonna have trouble catching up to the play. Should I switch? Stay home?" That kind of hesitation is fatal against Cleveland's offense.
The Cavs have found other methods to spring Irving, including plays on which he starts off the ball, races around one pick to get some separation, and flies into a dribble handoff with a head of steam. He has toasted Klay Thompson a few times by faking toward a pick, and then veering away from it.
The Cavs are learning on offense. To contain them, the Warriors may need to tweak their rotation. They definitely need to bring their best, hyper-alert game.
Cleveland isn't comfortable on the other end. No team is against the Warriors. But the Cavs know what they want to do, and executed it decently enough in two home games. They know Golden State will put Love through the pick-and-roll ringer. Love has slid his feet well, and the help defenders behind him have left the right guys open.
Green took more shots than both Curry and Klay Thompson in Game 4, including several of those wild driving floaters that always seem to miss. That is a win for Cleveland.
As Jeff Van Gundy likes to say, if Green and Iguodala hit their 3s, you lose. They are 8-of-28 combined so far. If they shoot well in Game 5, the series probably ends.
If they are going to derail the offense to poke at Love in a pick-and-roll, they should preface it with some other action -- put some obstacle in his way. Hit Love with a screen in the paint as he prepares for the real thing up high.
These double screens for Curry, with Love's guy as the final screener, have been devastating:
That alignment is very much intentional. Golden State knows the Cavs are fine switching Tristan Thompson onto Curry. That switch is harder to pull when Thompson's guy is only the first screener in line. This play has generated better switches -- Love on Curry -- and turned Thompson around. Golden State hasn't used it enough.
The Warriors have actually scored more efficiently when they put players other than Love in the pick-and-roll, per SportVU data reviewed by ESPN.com. Going that route often leaves Love on the back line. He might be worse there than he is scrambling at the point of attack, though he has worked his tail off to challenge shots and deflect passes down low. Turns out, he can play against these Warriors.
Manipulating the floor so Love is the last line of defense is harder than it sounds. Cleveland will switch a lot of other pick-and-rolls, barricading the path toward Love's ground-bound defense. But there is one other combination the Cavs really, really don't want to switch. This one:
Oh, baby. That is spicy. That is mean. The Warriors put their two best players in a pick-and-roll, and clear that side of the floor so there is no defender in traditional help position.
The bet here is that we see more of this kind of thing in Game 5 -- more mismatch basketball, more pick-and-roll, more Curry pindowns for Durant, and less of Golden State's beautiful game. The Cavs can hang with all that motion if they are engaged, and if the referees allow for some grabbing and holding. They cannot hang with Irving guarding Durant on a switch. Hell, maybe the Warriors will get really crazy and let Curry attack one-on-one a bit.
Bottom line: If Golden State plays well, it should win the title at home tonight. But a "B" game may not do it.
A few other things to watch in what could be the last game of the season:
• If the Cavs are going to abandon Green away from the ball, Golden State might be able to pry Klay Thompson open by running him off pindown picks from Green. If Green's guy is patrolling the action elsewhere, there will be no one around to contest Thompson catch-and-shoot jumpers.
• The Cavs have gotten away with a lot of Kyle Korver guarding Klay Thompson. That should be exploitable for the Warriors.
• Jefferson's minutes were huge in Game 4. Cleveland is minus-27 for the series with both Love and Tristan Thompson on the floor. There is a ton of noise in that number, obviously. The sample is tiny, and Thompson was awful in the first three games. But Tyronn Lue appears not to trust that double-big group to play against some of Golden State's super-small lineups, which means someone -- Jefferson, Shumpert, Korver, Deron Williams -- has to step up in place of one big man as sort of an extra starter.
• Durant's gang rebounding is so hit-or-miss. He has a bad habit of just standing around 20 feet from the rim, even when Tristan Thompson is sprinting unchallenged down the lane for an offensive board.
Durant is skinny, and doesn't love contact. This is a closeout game in the NBA Finals. A few rebounds could tip the balance.
• It can be hard for Golden State to play any of its centers with both Livingston and Iguodala. The spacing gets so cramped.
• Adjustment alert: James guarded Green more against Golden State's small-ball lineups, even if it meant the Cleveland big -- Love or Thompson -- had to defend Livingston, with Jefferson taking Durant. The Cavs like James on Green.
• The pace pendulum is so fascinating. The pace got away from the Cavaliers in the first two games. They do need to run when they sense a real chance, though. Slowing to a crawl also nudges them up against the shot clock, without time to exploit mismatches that materialize late in possessions. They are left to force tough shots.
• The lineup without Durant and Curry that starts the second and fourth quarters has been a net-negative all playoffs, per NBA.com. Kerr has gradually sliced its minutes, but the Warriors can't eliminate it without rejiggering the minutes pattern for one of the stars in a way the players may not love. It might be time to do that, though if I had to bet, I'd wager we see it again with a quicker hook if need be.Sponsored Headlines ABOUT COOKIES
Jun 1, 2017; Oakland, CA, Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsThe Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers face-off in the finals for the third straight year. More from Hidden Remote
It seems as though the finals took forever to get here. Mostly due to both teams being in complete control over their conference final foes. The Cleveland Cavaliers took out the Boston Celtics in five games and Golden State Warriors won four straight, and still haven’t lost a playoff game this postseason.
After the first quarter, the Warriors lead 35-30, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, the Warriors are 21-0 this season when scoring 35 or more in the first quarter. Kevin Durant was a huge key in this quarter and would be the rest of the game. The first frame was perhaps the best quarter of his career. He put up 10 points, five assists, and didn’t turn the ball over. It was such a dominating quarter for Durant he is only the third player in the last 15 NBA Finals to do put up those numbers in a quarter. Joining LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
By the end of the half, the Warriors led by eight points. Mostly due to Kevin Durant’s play and Steph Curry three-pointers, but also do to the effort in the paint, Golden State would outscore Cleveland 42-16 down low. Durant had six dunks, the most he ever had was four in a playoff game. Another key aspect to the game was Klay Thompson’s defense. He shut down both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving early.Second Half
In the third quarter, the Warriors would score 13 straight points. They also shut out Cleveland in the first four minutes. By the end of the third frame, Golden State would end up outscoring the Cavs by 13 points and extending their lead to 93-72. Cleveland would have 16 turnovers to the Warriors four. The biggest difference was points in the paint (50-26) and fast break offensive scoring (20-7). Steph Curry and Kevin Durant outscored the Cavs as a team 21-20.
In the fourth quarter, the Warriors were relentless by the 4:05 mark, the Cavs pulled their starters, while Golden State was up 105-87. The Warriors would end up pulling their starters by the two-minute mark and winning 110-89.
Three big differences in this game played a factor in the game with turnovers (20-4), field goal percentage (42.5-34.9) and assists (31-15) all in the Warriors favor. Cleveland just couldn’t control the ball and when they did the shooting wasn’t there, but they were not put in a position to score either. The Cavs would out-rebound the Warriors (59-50), and the three-point percentage was close, with Golden State shooting better by less than a percentage point.Key Players:
LeBron James 28 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists
Kevin Love 15 points, 21 rebounds
Kyrie Irving 24 points, two assists
Kevin Durant 38 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists
Stephen Curry 28 points, six rebounds, 11 assists
Draymond Green 9 points, 11 rebounds
Cavaliers: LeBron James became the first player with 6,000 career points in the postseason, and moves past Reggie Miller in three-pointers. Warriors: Klay Thompson still struggled shooting the ball by missing all five of his 3-point and scoring just six points. His defensive play has been outstanding and keeps him in the starting lineup. Steve Kerr has not returned to coaching duties.
Game 2 will be on Sunday at 8/7c on ABC/ESPN.
By Janie Mccauley, Associated Press 06:36 BST 13 Jun 2017, updated 15:30 BST 13 Jun 2017
Kevin Durant capped his spectacular first season with the Warriors by bringing home that coveted NBA championship he joined Golden State last July so determined to get.
He scored 39 points in a fast-and-furious, series-clinching 129-120 victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night.
Stephen Curry added 34 points, 10 assists and six rebounds as Golden State won in five games, closing out their second title in three years after squandering a 3-1 lead a year ago to the Cavs to miss a repeat. That stung ever since, and even Durant understood, because he gave up the same lead to the Warriors a round earlier with Oklahoma City.
'We learned from everything we've been through,' Curry said during the trophy celebration. 'Our perspective, being blessed to play on this stage three years in a row, it's for these fans, for our organisation, for these families. I'm just excited to do something special. I'm ready to do it again.'
James, who in 2012 with Miami beat the Thunder in Durant's only other Finals, wound up with 41 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving followed up his 40-point gem in Friday's Game Four with 26 points but shot nine for 22.Related Articles
This time, King James gave way to KD, who was the NBA Finals MVP 10 years after being picked second in the draft behind Greg Oden.
'It's just a great group of guys, great community, great arena, great fans,' Durant said. 'I'm just so happy to be a part of it. I can't wait to celebrate with my team-mates in the locker room.'
Durant drove left, right and down the middle, knocked down three-pointers, dished and dunked. He knocked down a 17-foot fadeaway over James early in the fourth quarter, then assisted on a three-pointer by Andre Iguodala the next time down as the Warriors pulled away.
Iguodala, the 2015 Finals MVP, came up big again with his 2017 postseason-best 20 points off the bench and stingy defence on James in a testy, tightly called finale to this trilogy Finals that everyone had stamped on the calendar from the moment Durant departed Oklahoma City to join Curry and Co.
The Warriors won in 2015 before the Cavs made their historic comeback last year. Then it was Golden State's time again, with Durant as the prized addition.NBA FINALS
Game 1: Golden State Warriors beat Cleveland Cavaliers 113-91
Game 2: Golden State Warriors beat Cleveland Cavaliers 132-113
Game 3: Golden State Warriors beat Cleveland Cavaliers 118-113
Game 4: Cleveland Cavaliers beat Golden State Warriors 137-116
Game 5: Golden State Warriors beat Cleveland Cavaliers 129-120
Durant shot 14 for 20 and Curry - the two-time reigning MVP who took a backseat as the new big star got acclimatised - finished off a brilliant post season.
Not to mention a healthy one after his 2016 injuries.
Draymond Green stayed on the court in a game that featured three technicals on one play 3:08 before half-time.
David West fought for the ball with Irving, then they got tangled up and Tristan Thompson entered the fray and he and West went at each other face-to-face.
West, Thompson and JR Smith received techs after a replay review.
Green had sat out this very game a year ago, suspended because of flagrant foul point accumulation after he swiped at James' groin in Game Four. He had 10 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in the clincher.
With a much-improved bench led by Iguodala, JaVale McGee, Shaun Livingston and West, that 'Strength In Numbers' slogan that has become such a staple the past two seasons shined all season long, from Durant's 19-game absence late in the regular season with a left knee injury to assistant coach Mike Brown stepping in for 11 post-season games to lead the way while Steve Kerr was ailing.WARRIORS AND DURANT PROVE POINT AGAINST CAVS
The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-120 in game five to win the NBA title with a 4-1 series win.
Here, are some of the noteworthy statistics from the five games.
* It was the first time in NBA history that the same two teams have contested the finals for three straight years.
* Finals MVP Kevin Durant scored over 30 points in every game and averaged 35.2 points per game.
* Durant has now scored 25 points or more in each of his first 10 Finals games - a feat previously achieved only by Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal.
* Even in defeat, LeBron James became the first player in history to average a triple-double in the finals - 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists per game.
* Golden State's bench players scored 35 points in Game Five, including 20 for Andre Iguodala, to just seven from Cleveland's back-ups.
* Tristan Thompson's 15 points for Cleveland in Game Five surpassed his tally in the the first four games combined (13).
* The Cavaliers' 49 points in the first quarter of Game Four were a record for a single quarter in any finals game.
* Defeat in Game Four was Golden State's only loss of the play-off campaign as they strolled to the title with a 16-1 post-season win-loss record.
On Monday, Golden State used a 27-4 second-quarter run to take charge - just after it appeared Durant should have been called for a third foul on a basket by James - and got to celebrate right at home in Oakland surrounded by a deafening home crowd waving yellow rally towels.
The Warriors became the first Bay Area team to capture a championship at home since the A's finished the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Five of the 1974 World Series.
A year ago, these Warriors fell short after a record-setting season that included a 24-0 start and 73 victories at the end to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' mark.
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