In a Golden State: Warriors end title drought – Reuters


In a Golden State: Warriors end title drought

CLEVELAND — After it was over, after Klay Thompson released 40 years of frustration by flinging the basketball high into the air while his teammates stormed the court, Andre Iguodala left the mob to race after the ball and catch it.

It was a fitting moment for the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, who caught the Golden State Warriors when they were falling in this series.

Iguodala scored 25 points Tuesday to become an unlikely MVP, and the Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-97 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, securing the franchise’s fourth championship and first since 1975.

“We were fortunate in a lot of ways this year,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “Maybe No. 1 was health. And to win a title, there’s obviously a lot of work, but a lot of luck as well, and we had a lot of luck on our side this year. And our guys took advantage of it. They were fantastic.”

The last four decades of Warriors basketball were filled with mediocrity, blown draft picks and losing seasons. All of that is gone now, washed away by one of the league’s rising stars and their rookie coach.

Guard Stephen Curry scored 25 points and passed for eight assists, and Kerr won his first ring as a coach after earning five as a player. He made the successful transition from the broadcast booth to the bench, taking a team rich in talent and transforming it into an elite squad.

“I was blessed with an unbelievable group of guys my first year,” Kerr said. “I can’t believe how lucky I am.”

Similarly, Curry’s meteoric rise to stardom ends with his first championship the same season he won his first MVP award. However, Iguodala won the MVP of the Finals after not starting a single game in the regular season. He edged LeBron James in the media voting, 7-4, after his insertion into the starting lineup for Game 4 turned the momentum of the series.

The Warriors didn’t lose a game with Iguodala in the starting lineup. He also took the overwhelming assignment of guarding James. Despite James’ gaudy numbers, he shot only 38 percent when Iguodala was in the game, and the Cavs were minus-55 in point differential. When Iguodala sat, James shot 44 percent and the Cavs outscored the Warriors by 30.

“I’m not surprised because I’m that confident in my game,” the veteran swingman said of winning the MVP. “I’m not surprised, but I would have bet on Steph. I would have bet on Draymond (Green). I was just happy for winning the ring. I didn’t care about anything else. This is just a plus.”

The Warriors dominated the regular season, winning a franchise-record 67 games while never losing three in a row. They went 16-5 in the playoffs, winning the last three games of the NBA Finals to close out the Cavs on the road.

“We found a recipe for success, and that’s the most important thing for us,” Curry said. “Now that we have this under our belt, I think we can actually appreciate what we were able to do this year from start to finish.”

Cleveland’s title drought, however, drags on. The city hasn’t celebrated a championship since 1964, and not even James’ return this season was powerful enough to end it. The star forward was sensational throughout the series and again in Game 6, finishing with 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists. However, he received little help from an injury-ravaged roster throughout the series, and the Cavs remain without a championship.

James narrowly missed becoming the first player since 1969 to win a Finals MVP award in a losing effort after leading both teams in scoring (35.8 points per game), rebounding (13.3) and assists (8.8) throughout the series.

“It’s not a great feeling when you lose,” James said. “It hurts me. Just wasn’t our time.”

James falls to 2-4 in the Finals, but he hardly can be blamed for this one. James was the sole reason the Cavs were even in the series after postseason injuries to guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love cost Cleveland a pair of All-Stars and its second- and third-leading scorers.

The Cavaliers trailed 28-15 after the first quarter, but forward Tristan Thompson’s basket with 10:48 left in the third brought them all the way back to a 47-45 lead. The advantage was short-lived.

Warriors forward Harrison Barnes made a 3-pointer, Iguodala dunked off a Cavs turnover (their 17th of the night) and Green followed with another 3-pointer to stretch Golden State’s lead to 53-47. The margin soon soared into double figures again with the Cavs struggling from 3-point range and at the free-throw line.

A steal and dunk from James cut the Warriors’ lead to 75-68 early in the fourth quarter, and a 3-pointer from forward James Jones pulled the Cavs within seven, but Iguodala (two), Curry and Thompson splashed successive 3-pointers during a two-minute stretch to push the lead to 92-77 with 6:01 to play.

“What really wins is the combination of great offense and great defense,” Kerr said. “We had the No. 1 defense in the league. We had the highest-scoring team in the league. When you get that combination, then you’re going to be pretty good.”

The loss ends David Blatt’s first year as coach of the Cavaliers. Blatt came to the NBA after winning a Euroleague title last year, and he battled scrutiny all season to come within two victories of winning an NBA championship.

“Not every story has a happy ending,” Blatt said. “It doesn’t mean it’s a bad story. This was not. This was a good story.”

Especially for the Golden State Warriors and their end to 40 years of frustration.

NOTES: Cleveland F LeBron James didn’t seem interested in the possibility of winning the MVP in a losing effort. “I wouldn’t feel good about it at all,” James said before the game. “At the end of the day, I’m here to win a team prize, and that’s to win a championship, not an individual prize.” … Nike CEO Phil Knight attended Tuesday’s game. James, of course, is perhaps the company’s biggest client. … Warriors coach Steve Kerr doesn’t like the 9 p.m. EDT starts for East Coast finals games. “If anyone’s listening, can we start these games a little earlier?” he said. “I used to work in TV, so I understand. But 8 o’clock would be OK.” … Kerr said he watched the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory Monday night and remains a Blackhawks fan from his playing days in Chicago.

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