CLEVELAND (AP) — The Golden State Warriors clinched their first NBA championship since 1975 by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-97 in Game 6 on Tuesday, extending Cleveland’s even-longer title drought and denying LeBron James the fairytale finish to his homecoming season.
League MVP Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala — named as an unlikely Finals MVP — each had 25 points for the Warriors, who won the final three games after Cleveland had led the Finals series 2-1.
“To be able to hold this trophy and all the hard work we’ve put into it this season, this is special,” Curry said. “We’re definitely a great team and a team that should go down in history as one of the best teams from top to bottom.”
The Warriors overcame James’ best efforts in the series and followed their 67-win regular season with a title despite none of their players having had any previous NBA Finals experience entering the series.
Watch the Top 5 plays from the Warriors’ title-clinching win below:
James finished with 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists, falling just shy of what would have been a record third triple-double in the series.
“Doesn’t matter if I’m playing in Miami or playing in Cleveland or playing on Mars,” he said. “You lose in the finals, it’s disappointing.”
He simply did not have enough support from an injury-stricken Cavaliers roster, and a half-century-long title drought in Cleveland continues, with no team from the city having won a title in the top level of U.S. pro sports since the Cleveland Browns NFL team in 1964.
Watch Part 1 of LeBron James’ postgame press conference below:
Watch Part 2:
Draymond Green recorded a triple-double for the Warriors, and for the first time since Gerald Ford was President, disco was in vogue and Rick Barry was flicking in free throws under-handed, the best pro basketball team resides in the Bay Area.
After falling behind by two points early in the third quarter, the Warriors took control with Curry and Iguodala leading the way.
They outscored the Cavaliers 28-18 in the third quarter, quieting a rocking Cleveland crowd and opening a lead even the brilliant James couldn’t overcome.
Golden State, having pushed its lead out to 15 points in the closing stages, allowed the Cavaliers to creep back within four points in the final minute and a remarkable comeback momentarily seemed possible, but the Warriors hung on.
James returned from Miami to Cleveland this season to deliver a title to his home region, but the 30-year-old, left to do most of the work by himself after All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were injured in the postseason, came two wins shy.
James was superbly dominant during the series, showing why he’s the world’s best player, but the Warriors were simply the better team.
“We ran out of talent,” said James, who sat facing his locker with a towel over his head for nearly an hour after the game. “We gave everything we had.”
Iguodala had the unenviable task of guarding James but did it so well — and contributed strongly to offense — that he was nominated as the player of the series.
“This has been a long ride,” Iguodala said. “It’s been a great season.”
This series, which opened with two overtime games in Oakland, flipped when coach Steve Kerr employed a small lineup in the fourth quarter of Game 3 and the Warriors nearly overcame a 20-point deficit before losing.
Kerr stuck with revamped lineup in Game 4, giving Iguodala his first start this season, switching Green to center and benching the ineffective Andrew Bogut. The move was as golden as the Warriors, who finished with 83 wins, the third-highest single-season total in history.
Watch NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala receive his trophy below:
Only the 1995-96 and 1996-97 Bulls won more, and Kerr was on both of those teams.
The fact that Iguodala, their sixth man, took MVP honors perhaps sums up the Warriors best.
“I always said Andre’s a pro’s pro,” Green said. “He’s a professional guy and it showed, and that’s why he’s MVP of the series and that’s what we’re champions.”
While Golden State had some solid teams in the past — the “Run TMC” version coached by Don Nelson and featuring Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond among them — the franchise has been undermined by dysfunction. Along with long playoff gaps, there were bad trades, poor drafts and numerous coaching changes.
Those days are gone, washed away by Curry and Thompson — the “Splash Brothers” — and a roster of selfless players who bonded under Kerr and have returned basketball glory to Oakland.
“I remember coming to Oracle as a player year after year playing against lousy teams,” Kerr said. “I could not be happier for our fan base.”
Kerr molded them. Hired last summer after spurning an offer from the Knicks, he won three of his five titles as Michael Jordan‘s teammate in Chicago and two playing for Gregg Popovich in San Antonio.
With Curry, the team’s first MVP since Wilt Chamberlain, leading them, the Warriors outgunned everyone in the rugged Western Conference and entered the postseason as a No. 1 seed. They swept New Orleans, rallied from a 2-1 deficit to beat Memphis and then blew through Houston in five games to make the finals for the first time since ’75.
They then held off James and the Cavs, who just didn’t have enough.
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