The Golden State Warriors accomplished much more than revenge en route to their second NBA title in three seasons. The entire core of the Warriors sparkled over the five-game series win, only briefing allowing the Cleveland Cavaliers to inspire the hope of their fanbase. For Kevin Durant, it was the exclamation point his turbulent season was bound to end with.
Many NBA fans expected this very outcome when the 2016-17 season began. Adding Durant to a team coming off a record 73-win season would only make the Warriors overwhelming league favorites once again. After a few uneasy moments during the year, Golden State found their footing in the playoffs, posting a 16-1 record while claiming league supremacy.
Entering the finals undefeated, the Warriors were heavy favorites to avenge last year’s loss to the Cavaliers. Durant put up 38 points in a game one rout, winning 113-91. Game two wasn’t much kinder to the Cavs as they lost by 21 heading back to Cleveland down 2-0. The series could have swung in game three though. The Cavs held the lead throughout the contest, only to be derailed when Durant sunk a three with barely a minute remaining.
Game four provided a glimmer of hope for Cleveland fans. In one of his greatest series performances, LeBron James refused to get swept on home court. James and company came out firing on all cylinders, putting up an NBA record 49 points in the first quarter. A 137-116 Cavs’ victory had the looks of a game played in last year’s finals with Golden State on the edge of implosion. James and Kyrie Irving went off while Draymond Green straddled the line of dirty play. Steph Curry was invisible, just the way he was at times last year, scoring a total of 14 points for the game. Was this déjà vu all over again for the Warriors?
Once again though, Durant proved to be the difference. The finals validated the Warriors’ actions this off-season. With Durant spearheading the attack, the Cavs defense could not handle the onslaught. KD became just the sixth player to average 30 points or more in each game of a championship series on his way to earning MVP honors. Game five had its competitive moments, but the Warriors answered every punch thrown by the Cavaliers, and clinched the finals with a 129-120 victory.
For LeBron James, the last two weeks likely reminded him more of the first time the Cavs and Warriors met in the finals. Back in 2015, James averaged 35.8 PPG as a one-man wrecking crew. This time, James became the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in a finals series. The King did all he could through five games, and his teammates stepped up as well. Irving was consistent, while Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love had standout moments. Even Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith delivered in clutch situations, but they were no match for the mighty Warriors.
Durant joining the likes of Curry, Green, and Klay Thompson has certainly sparked a debate regarding the greatest starting five ever assembled. With Durant’s dominant performance and Curry’s timely perimeter shooting, how long will this dynasty have a stranglehold on the rest of the NBA? And more importantly, how likely is it that we’ll see a fourth consecutive NBA Finals meeting between Golden State and Cleveland?
To nobody’s surprise, Las Vegas has already tabbed the Warriors and Cavaliers as the 2017-18 NBA favorites.