NBA Finals: Warriors Defeat Cavs In 6 Games To Win 1st Title In 40 Years

Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver on the 2015 Golden State Warriors; From Best Record All Season To NBA World Champs: 

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CLEVELAND—A season in which everything always seemed to fall perfectly into place ended in perfectly charmed fashion, with the proper button being pushed at the right time and every shot falling once the championship was in reach.

The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 105–97 in Game 6 on Tuesday to claim their first title since 1975, following up a franchise-best 67-15 regular season with a spectacular 16-5 jaunt through the playoffs. Lacking in Finals experience before it entered the series, and facing the daunting task of slowing LeBron James, Golden State was nevertheless well-prepared for this series, having faced multiple superstars earlier in the playoffs, having won matchups by playing both fast and slow, and having climbed out of a 2-1 hole against the Grizzlies in the second round.

Those experiences, coupled with Golden State’s talent-laden, healthy and unselfish roster, fueled the Warriors. Golden State coach Steve Kerr expertly drew on the lessons he learned along the way. In defending James, as in dealing with Anthony Davis and especially James Harden, Kerr used multiple defenders and regularly changed his help coverage before sticking with Andre Iguodala once the veteran wing proved he could consistently make James work hard for his numbers. In digging out of a 2-1 Finals deficit, Kerr made the series’s key adjustment, benching starting center Andrew Bogut in favor of Iguodala, a move that opened up the court for Stephen Curry and forced constant mismatches for Cleveland center Timofey Mozgov. The move recalled Kerr’s decision to put Bogut on Tony Allen against the Grizzlies, exploiting the guard’s poor outside shooting, as both adjustments created unexpected problems that the opposition proved unable to solve.

The late-arriving lineup change—Iguodala hadn’t started a game all season until Game 4 of the Finals—led to three straight wins, with a 14-point average margin of victory. A series that had been under the tight control of a deliberate James was ripped from his grasp, and there was no turning back.

Game 6 was secured with typical Warriors balance: five players scored in double-figures, the second-unit chipped in 25 points, and timely buckets rained down when the Cavaliers mustered a late push. A 7-0 Cleveland run early in the fourth quarter was answered immediately by four consecutive three-pointers by the Warriors, two by Iguodala, one by Curry and one by Klay Thompson. The NBA’s best three-point shooting team shot 13-34 (38.2%) from deep on the night, but those back-to-back-to-back-to-back triples turned a seven-point game into a 15-point game with five minutes to play, squelching Cleveland’s hopes for a season-extending comeback.

Iguodala’s shooting, in particular, was a difference-maker. Cleveland coach David Blatt had to choose between downsizing his lineup and removing Mozgov or staying big and hoping that Iguodala wouldn’t be able to make him pay. Blatt chose the former in a Game 5 loss and then returned to the latter in Game 6. Iguodala seized the opportunity Tuesday, totaling 25 points, five rebounds and five assists to take home Finals MVP honors.

As the threes rained in the fourth quarter, a jubilant Warriors team began celebrating early, with a pumped-up Draymond Green flexing in the direction of Cleveland’s bench and an elated Curry pointing to Golden State’s after Thompson hit his three. Cleveland, without the injured Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao, simply wasn’t equipped to push back. The Cavaliers’ last-ditch effort was coolly shot down by Curry and Iguodala at the free-throw stripe, and then the real celebrations began.

Curry, who finished with 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds, cradled his daughter, Riley, in his left arm as he reached up to grasp the championship trophy with his right hand. That scene was difficult to project just a few years ago, when the Warriors missed the playoffs in each of Curry’s first three seasons while he dealt with ongoing ankle injuries.

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Posted on June 19, 2015, in NBA, Sports Media World and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on NBA Finals: Warriors Defeat Cavs In 6 Games To Win 1st Title In 40 Years.

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