Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry take back NBA title from LeBron James and Cavs
OAKLAND, California — Kevin Durant capped his spectacular first season with the Warriors with a Finals win. On Monday night, Golden State became the NBA champions for the second time in three years. Durant scored 39 points in a fast-and-furious, 129-120 victory over LeBron James and his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, on Monday night.
Playing alongside Durant, superstar Stephen Curry had 34 points, 10 assists, which are passes to teammates that lead to baskets, and six rebounds. Last year the Warriors were up with three wins and one loss to the Cavs in the Finals, but they threw away their lead and failed to win a second championship in a row. That stung ever since, which Durant understood — he was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. They gave up a three-win lead — to the Warriors — one round earlier in last year's playoffs.
Warriors Learn From Old Mistakes
"We learned from everything we've been through," Curry said during the trophy celebration. He said the Warriors were "blessed" to play in the Finals three years in a row. "To be back here, bring ol' Larry back home, I'm just excited to do something special. I'm ready to do it again," he added, referring to the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.
Despite the final result, the Cavs kept the game close into the final minutes. James wound up with 41 points and 13 rebounds, which are retrieved balls after shots are missed. He also got eight assists. Kyrie Irving followed up his 40-point gem of a performance in Friday's Game 4 with 26 points, making nine of his 22 shots.
It was Durant's second trip to the Finals, having fallen to LeBron James in 2012, when they were each on different teams. Back then, Durant was with the Oklahoma City Thunder and James was with the Miami Heat. "King James" won his first championship then, beating the Thunder in five games. This time, it was KD's turn. The 28-year-old finished his 10th season in the NBA with a Finals win and was named Finals MVP.
"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 teammates in the locker room."
Durant was unstoppable Monday night, driving down the middle, dishing, dunking and draining 3-pointers.
Third Finals Matchup In A Row
It was a tough, tense fifth game in a Finals matchup that everyone saw coming. This was the third year in a row that the Warriors and Cavs have met in the Finals. Last year, as soon as Durant departed Oklahoma City to join Curry and company, a third showdown seemed guaranteed.
The Warriors won in 2015, and were on pace to repeat before the Cavs made their historic comeback last year. This year was Golden State's time again, with Durant as the prized addition.
Durant shot 14 for 20 alongside Curry, the two-time reigning MVP. Curry finished off a brilliant postseason with his performance on Monday. Unlike last year, Curry wasn't set back by injuries in this postseason.
Warriors player Draymond Green has been at the center of Warriors-Cavaliers drama in the past. This year, though, he was a voice of calm when tension flared. There were three technical fouls on one play 3:08 before halftime after David West and Irving got tangled up fighting for the ball. Tristan Thompson entered the fray and he and West went at each other face-to-face. West, Thompson and J.R. Smith received technical fouls after a replay review.
Green had to sit out the fifth game of the Finals a year ago. He was suspended for having gotten too many flagrant fouls during the playoffs after a scuffle with James in Game 4. He had 10 points, 12 rebounds and five assists Monday night.
Strength In Numbers From The Bench
When Curry and Durant were not on the floor, the Warriors could count on Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee, Shaun Livingston and West for key contributions. Golden States' slogan is "Strength In Numbers," and that idea has certainly been true of the team this year. All season they've relied on backups to step in at key moments. Durant had to miss 19 games late in the regular season with a left knee injury, and coach Steve Kerr sat out 11 games during the playoffs with a back injury. Mike Brown stepped in while Kerr was away.
The Warriors scored 27 points in the second quarter, while the Cavaliers scored only four points. Golden State used their lead to take charge, just after it looked like Durant should have been called for a third foul on a basket by James. When the game finally ended, they got to celebrate right at home in Oakland surrounded by a deafening home crowd. Fans waved yellow rally towels and held up phones to shoot video and photos as the final minute of the clock ticked away.
A year ago, these Warriors fell short after a record-setting 73-9 season. This year, although they didn't match that regular-season record, they did finish as champions.