From the opening day of the NBA season, experts and fans everywhere predicted the Golden State Warriors to win it all. After adding former MVP Kevin Durant they were being praised as one of the best teams in NBA history, with four all-stars and two MVPs now on the roster.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were the favorites to be the Eastern Conference champions the entire season, even when they faced some hardships. Even when the Cavs were the second seed in the East and the Celtics were the first, Cleveland was still heavily favored to come out of the East and face the Warriors in the Finals.
So after one of the most predictable postseasons in recent memory, the Golden State Warriors have officially become the 2016-17 NBA Champions.
The most anticipated event of any NBA season was finally upon us. These Finals had everyone especially excited due to the fact that so far the playoffs have been predictable and boring.
Every NBA fan knew in their hearts that the Finals would consist of a battle between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. Despite the excitement of a rematch between the two the series started off heavily in favor of the Warriors.
After watching games one, two, and three one could argue that the Golden State Warriors would be the first team to go a perfect 16-0 in the playoffs. The way they dominated those games with the the unbelievably fast pace of their offense and their crushing defensive pressure was amazing. Nervousness crept into the minds of Cavs fans and thoughts of revenge were racing through the minds of Warriors fans.
The Warriors proved that they could win on the road in Cleveland in Game 3. So what was stopping them from doing the same thing in Game 4? Kevin Durant was almost unstoppable in this year’s Finals, hitting unbelievably hard shots every other possession to send daggers into the hearts of Cleveland’s hopeful fan’s.
Stephen Curry was playing amazing, unlike last year. Klay Thompson had finally found his stroke and Draymond Green was playing with more fire than ever. The Cavs were at home, still defending champions, and were favored to lose this game and be swept in the Finals.
The first quarter was a massacre. Both teams came out of the gate with tons of offensive firepower. As usual Kevin Durant led the way offensively, scoring 10 of the Warriors 33 first quarter points. But what the Cavs did in the first quarter was much more impressive
On the road to setting a record for most points scored in a quarter in the Finals by a team, Kyrie Irving scored 11 of the Cavs’ 49 first quarter points. The dominance over the offensive juggernaut Warriors was astonishing. This continued into the second quarter after Kyrie dropped another double-digit scoring performance with 16 points in the second quarter topping off a 27 point first half. The Cavs led the Warriors by 18 points, 86-68, setting another record for most points scored by a team in one-half in the Finals.
Cavs fans nervousness started to disappear and hopes of a 3-0 comeback filled their hearts. Kyrie calmed down in the 3rd quarter but the Cavs didn’t. They stretched their lead to 19 points and put the Warriors in a very deep hole entering the fourth quarter with an 115-96 lead. The Cavs needed to play only 12 more minutes of good basketball to avoid being swept by an outstanding Warriors team. And that’s exactly what they did.
LeBron James put on an absolute show, recording yet another triple-double in route to a game four victory sending the series back to Oakland. Jokes about the Warriors having yet another 3-1 lead started and J.R. Smith’s hacked Twitter stated that he had the Cavs in 7. The anticipation for game five was massive and Cavs fans everywhere were praying to the basketball gods for one more amazing run by the King and company.
Every game was win or go home for the Cavs at this point. They were down 3-1 in the series and were visiting a loud and quite frankly terrifying Oracle Arena with fans that were hungry for revenge from last season. The Warriors were favored to finish off their opponents in this game and take back the coveted Finals trophy. Although, after the first quarter it wasn’t looking that way.
The Cavs were very strong out of the gate leading the Warriors 37-33, with Kyrie and LeBron both dropping double-digit point performances in the first quarter.
Kevin Durant and company were still playing well in this game, with Stephen Curry scoring 11 of the Dubs 33 first quarter points. In the second quarter, some switch flipped for the Warriors.
Maybe it was the realization that this is how it all starts. That after letting the Cavs play dominating basketball in the first quarter and diminishing the confidence of their teammates and fans, that this is how a series is blown. That this could then lead to another dreaded seven-game series with the momentum in favor of the Cavs.
The realization that if they let the Cavaliers play another 36 minutes of strong and competitive basketball and make this a very winnable series for Cleveland, that they will not get the prize they’ve fought all season for.
Something happened to them. From that quarter on, the Warriors had control. There were some glimpses of hope for Cavs when they had a chance, like the Tristan Thompson alley-oop or one of J.R. Smiths clutch contested three-pointers to close in on the Warriors’ lead. But through all of those plays, the Warriors still had control of the game. They kept in control by reminding fans that they could go down the court and take back the momentum whenever they wanted.
Whether it was from the sneaky handles of Steph to get to the paint and hit a tough layup, a quick catch and shoot in the corner by Thompson, or a pull-up three by Kevin Durant, the Warriors still had control. The Warriors took over in the second quarter and went up 71-60, despite a near half-court three-pointer by J.R. Smith right before the half.
The third quarter was an electric one. While the Warriors were still in control of the game throughout the third the Cavs made a very strong run and brought the game back to a winnable 5-point lead in favor of the Warriors. J.R. Smith went off scoring a couple clutch three-pointers in times where it looked like the Warriors were finally pulling away. Now the fourth quarter is where the unsung heroes of games are made. In this case, it was Andre Iguodala.
The 2015 Finals MVP scored 20 points total, with 7 points in the fourth. While 7 points in the fourth may not be spectacular it was his ironclad defense and the plays that he made to keep the momentum in favor of the Warriors. After a made three-pointer by the great Kyle Korver, Iggy dished KD a beautiful pass for a huge dunk that swung the momentum right back to the Warriors. After a LeBron James missed turnaround shot, he cut to the basket and dunked the ball home to extend the lead 112-102 forcing Cleveland to call a timeout.
He wasn’t the most amazing player or the flashiest player on that court, but if he wasn’t in during the fourth it could have been a completely different outcome. The Warriors pulled away at the end despite a couple of rage-fueled scores by LeBron. After a desperation three from the corner by J.R. Smith that sank the game ended with the Warriors winning 129-120 and winning the NBA Finals 4-1.
Kevin Durant took home the Finals MVP after posting an incredible Finals stat line of; 35.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 1.2 BPG. After leaving the team that he called home for 8 seasons to join an already stacked Warriors squad, Durant has finally gotten the ring he’s most desired and taken home the coveted Finals MVP trophy.
The super-team Golden State Warriors completed a 16-1 postseason and became the new NBA Champions, finally getting their revenge over the Cavaliers. All of those blown 3-1 lead jokes could finally be silenced.
He scored 35 points a game and shot over 50% from the field. He clamped down on defense and outplayed the greatest player of this generation in LeBron James.
Kevin Durant may have trashed his legacy by joining the Warriors, but he will always be remembered with a ring.
Seeing that this may be the start of a dynasty, KD could end up with a lot more rings than just one.