Golden State War­riors win NBA ti­tle

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY BRIAN MA­HONEY

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.

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-cen­tu­ry­long 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.

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 third­high­est sin­gle-sea­son to­tal in history.

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 team- mate 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.

AP

1. Golden State War­riors guard An­dre Iguo­dala #9 goes up for a dunk against Cleve­land Cava­liers cen­ter Tris­tan Thompson #13 dur­ing the sec­ond half of Game 6 of bas­ket­ball’s NBA Fi­nals in Cleve­land, Ohio, Tues­day, June 16. 2. The Golden State War­riors celebrate af­ter win­ing Game 6 of bas­ket­ball’s NBA Fi­nals against the Cleve­land Cava­liers in Cleve­land, Tues­day. 3. Golden State War­riors guard Stephen Curry #30, right, and guard An­dre Iguo­dala #9 celebrate af­ter win­ning Game 6 of bas­ket­ball’s NBA Fi­nals in Cleve­land, Tues­day. 4. Cleve­land Cava­liers for­ward LeBron James waits to re­spond to ques­tions dur­ing a news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing Game 6 of bas­ket­ball’s NBA Fi­nals against the Golden State War­riors, in Cleve­land, Wed­nes­day, June 17.

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