CLEVELAND – In the end, the Warriors left no doubt.
The Warriors, a complete and consistent team experiencing a dream season, crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday with a methodical 105-97 win in Game 6 of the NBA Finals and found themselves at the pinnacle celebrating a new title.
These Warriors can now be called NBA champions.
Golden State captured its first championship trophy since 1975, using the formula it had relied upon all season long. With the leadership and historic shooting of Stephen Curry and contributions from up and down their roster, the Warriors dazzled teams with the highest-scoring offense. With smarts and toughness, they banded together to form a swarming, top-ranked defense under coach Steve Kerr, a five-time champion as a player who became the first rookie coach to win a title since 1982.
“I think what was probably overlooked all year long was that what really wins is the combination of great offense and great defense,” said Kerr, his shirt wet from celebrating with sparkling wine.
“Whether you’re shooting threes or twos, it’s about the balance. To win a title, you have to be able to make stops.”
LeBron James, despite averaging 35.8 points per game in the series for the injury-plagued Cavaliers after a 32-point night, was no match for such an opponent as Cleveland’s 51-year major professional sports championship drought continues.
Klay Thompson smiled with the Larry O’Brien Trophy beside him and pointed at Curry, saying the Warriors are “the best team in the world with the best player in the world.”
Curry, who toiled for years and turned around a losing culture, led the Warriors with 25 points and threw the ball toward the heavens as the final buzzer was about to sound. He embraced Kerr and what the coach preached.
“Every decision he made, I think everybody bought into it,” Curry said. “Whether you understood it or not, you bought into it. Because he’s a champion.”
When Kerr stood on the stage at Quicken Loans Arena, the first two players he mentioned were Andre Iguodala and David Lee, former All-Stars who had accepted bench roles in the regular season.
Iguodala ultimately became the Finals MVP after his insertion in the starting lineup turned around the series, and he scored 25 points in the clinching win. Kerr said the award was fitting given all that Iguodala had sacrificed.
Draymond Green, whose indomitable spirit propelled the team, notched a triple-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
“They can still say, ‘Oh, he’s too small, he’s too this, he’s too that,’” Green said of the doubters. “They can never take this away from me.”
“Ever,” added owner Joe Lacob, who had promised to deliver a championship after buying the team in 2010.
Even on a night when Thompson was held to five points and fouled out, the Warriors could not be stopped and showed just how well-rounded they were with what Iguodala called “a team of believers.”
The Warriors clinched the championship with a decisive victory much like the ones they had all through a 67-win regular season.
The Warriors dominated the first quarter and led 28-15, with Iguodala serving as the sparkplug in the Warriors’ small lineup.
This time, the Cavaliers kept Timofey Mozgov in the game to guard Iguodala, who missed his first three attempts with the 7-foot-1 center daring him to shoot before finding his rhythm.
Iguodala hit three of his next four jump shots, including a 3-pointer that started an 8-0 run to finish the quarter.
The Cavaliers committed a whopping nine turnovers in the quarter, including three shot-clock violations in the first eight minutes as the Warriors made them pay for attempting to slow down the pace of the game.
James, who was 13 for 33 from the field while being guarded by Iguodala, kept coming. He hit a 3-pointer to start an 8-2 run that cut the Warriors’ lead to 45-43 at halftime.
“Every time I’d get past (Iguodala), another guy would step up – Draymond Green or whatever the case may be,” James said.
The Warriors gave major minutes to Shaun Livingston after Iguodala committed his third foul, as he took on the defensive assignment against James. Leandro Barbosa also played as much in the first half as Thompson, who committed three fouls in 10 minutes.
The Cavaliers took the lead briefly with back-to-back baskets to start the second half, but Harrison Barnes hit his third 3-pointer of the game to put the Warriors back on top. Iguodala had a dunk, and Green hit a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 53-47 lead.
The Warriors ran away from the Cavaliers, pushing the ball in transition off missed shots and turnovers. Curry himself grabbed a rebound and sprinted the other way before feeding Iguodala for a dunk that made it 61-51.
Festus Ezeli, who got the minutes over center Andrew Bogut, completed an alley-oop dunk and then threw down a vicious putback for a 3-point play that pushed the lead to 14 points.
Green scored inside again and flexed as the Warriors led 73-58. The Warriors entered the game 57-0 when leading by at least 15 points, and there was never a chance they would ever let there be a blemish to that mark.
More than an hour after the game ended, the usually reserved Thompson returned to the locker room and screamed.
“We won the championship! We did it!”