PORTLAND (Oregon) • The Golden State Warriors' season has not been straightforward. The team have coped with injuries, squabbles, fatigue and even complacency.
But they are still the defending champions in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and they are imposing their will post-season with another majestic romp past their opponents.
On Monday night, the Warriors clinched a fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals by completing a four-game sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals.
With their 119-117 overtime victory at the Moda Centre, they also preserved their hopes of a third straight championship and their fourth in five seasons.
The only other team to reach five straight NBA Finals were the Boston Celtics, when they went to a record 10 in a row from 1957 to 1966 (and won nine titles, eight consecutively). The Los Angeles Lakers were the last team to do a hat-trick, from 2000 to 2002.
"I hope it doesn't go unnoticed or underrated," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Five straight Finals hasn't been done since the 60s, since Bill Russell's Celtics. And it hasn't been done for a reason: It's really, really difficult."
Led by Stephen Curry, who finished with 37 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, Golden State had to mount a huge comeback to get past Portland in Game 4, after they trailed by as many as 17 points in the third quarter.
I hope it doesn't go unnoticed or underrated. Five straight Finals hasn't been done since the 60s, since Bill Russell's Celtics. And it hasn't been done for a reason: It's really, really difficult.
STEVE KERR, Golden State Warriors coach.
After Klay Thompson tied the game on a three-pointer with less than two minutes left in regulation, the Warriors forced overtime when Portland's Damian Lillard missed a running lay-up. In overtime, the Warriors' Alfonzo McKinnie scored on a putback for a 116-115 lead, then Draymond Green built on the lead with a three-pointer.
Green had his second straight triple-double, collecting 18 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
He helped make a little history, too, as he and Curry became the first NBA teammates to have triple-doubles in the same post-season game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Meyers Leonard, Portland's starting centre, scored a career-high 30 points, while Lillard finished with 28 points and 12 assists.
The Warriors will await the winners of the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks lead 2-1, with Game 4 set for this morning (Singapore time) in Toronto. The Finals are scheduled to start on May 30.
The Warriors eliminated the Blazers despite not having their All-Star forward Kevin Durant, who injured his right calf in the play-offs semi-finals against the Houston Rockets.
Durant, who is expected to be re-evaluated this week, had been dominant in the play-offs, averaging a team-leading 34.2 points a game.
"Being without Kevin these last five games has put us in a really tough spot and our guys stepped up in a big way," Kerr said.
"The group have a fibre to them - they find a way to come together and compete and win."
In Durant's absence, the Warriors have been leaning more on ball movement while welcoming increased scoring from Curry, who eviscerated every defender the Blazers sent his way. In the series, Curry averaged 36.5 points on 46.9 per cent from the field.
Portland were trying to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 1992.
In many ways, though, the result was depressingly familiar for the Blazers, whom the Warriors eliminated from the play-offs for the third time in four seasons.
"We couldn't get over the hump," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
"I think it was a demonstration of how good they are and how good they have been over the years - they find a way to win."
NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE