NBA: State of euphoria for Warriors

The Golden State Warriors celebrate with the Larry O'Brien trophy after their 129-120 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Five to regain the NBA championship with a 4-1 series win..
The Golden State Warriors celebrate with the Larry O'Brien trophy after their 129-120 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Five to regain the NBA championship with a 4-1 series win..PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

MVP Durant the pivotal figure in 4-1 Finals win as Golden State clinch 2nd title in 3 years

OAKLAND (California) • The Golden State Warriors will forever be known as one of the most talented teams in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA), along with a hefty set of other superlatives - most dominant, most dazzling, most adept at hitting shots from distant galaxies.

But for all their astonishing skill, the Warriors were the most determined, too.

Determined to make amends for last season. Determined to escape the clutches of LeBron James. And determined to restore themselves as champions.

On Monday night, before an exultant crowd at Oracle Arena, where gold confetti fluttered from the ceiling at the final buzzer, the Warriors put the last dab of polish on a gilded season by surging to their second championship in three years with a 129-120 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Five of the NBA finals.

Golden State won the best-of-seven series by a 4-1 margin, capping a commanding post-season run. The Warriors went 16-1, their lone loss coming to the Cavaliers in Game Four, and largely turned a succession of high-powered opponents into stage props. It was the basketball equivalent of lapping the field.

After two lopsided losses, the Cavaliers at least made the series competitive and highly entertaining. But the Warriors' star power - including Kevin Durant, whom they signed last summer for precisely this pressure-cooker purpose - prevailed over James, Kyrie Irving and the rest of the Cavaliers.

GRIT BRINGS ITS REWARD

I couldn't sleep for two days. I was anxious. I was jittery. I just wanted to put it all out there. We battled. But we did it. We're champions. And we're celebrating on our home court.

KEVIN DURANT, on finally claiming his first NBA championship.

"It feels amazing to win a championship with these guys," Durant, who won his first NBA title, said.

"I couldn't sleep for two days. I was anxious. I was jittery. I just wanted to put it all out there.

"We battled. But we did it. We're champions. And we're celebrating on our home court."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr agreed that it was finally time to celebrate after a long but successful season.

"Winning a championship is so hard," he said.

"And when you do it, you just get nine months of all this work and you can finally let loose."

Durant was at his long-limbed best, doing his part to snuff every rally that the Cavaliers could muster. He scored 39 points and was named the series' Most Valuable Player, while Stephen Curry had 34 points and 10 assists.

James delivered the Full LeBron: 41 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. He averaged 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists - the first triple-double average in NBA Finals history.

Irving scored 26 points, and J.R. Smith added 25 for the Cavaliers.

"I left everything I had out on the floor every single game for five games in these Finals, and you come up short," said James.

This was the third straight Finals meeting between the Warriors and the Cavaliers. After Golden State won in 2015, Cleveland put together an unprecedented comeback from 1-3 down to take the championship last season.

But the Warriors regrouped last summer by luring Durant away from the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency.

The addition of Durant was not universally celebrated. Durant was accused by some of pursuing the easiest path to a championship.

The Warriors, too, were criticised for somehow becoming too good - as if they should have passed on the chance to sign Durant out of concern for the good of the league.

It was a curious argument - teams generally do whatever they can to win - and Golden State, with Durant in the mix, treated their regular-season opponents like roadkill.

The Warriors, despite their mass of individual talent, were a true collaboration. Consider their willingness to pass the ball in the Finals: 147 assists on 216 field goals. The Cavaliers, who leaned so heavily on James and Irving, had just 108 assists on 208 field goals.

Durant, of course, gave his new team the biggest assist of all.

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2017, with the headline 'State of euphoria for Warriors'. Print Edition | Subscribe