CLEVELAND (Ohio) • The Golden State Warriors were not perfect. They lost 24 games during the regular season. Rather than chase records, they endured injuries and bouts of complacency.
Their path to the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals was tough. But for the second year in a row, the Warriors are NBA champions. They demolished the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-85 on Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena to complete a four-game sweep.
Three titles in four years puts Golden State in rarefied company: the 1950s Minneapolis Lakers, Boston's 1960s dynasty, the 1980s Magic Johnson "Showtime" Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, Michael Jordan's Bulls and the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers teams that won five titles and lost two other Finals from 2000 to 2010.
Stephen Curry took a modest tone when asked about his team's place among the all-time greats.
"Not for me to answer that question," he said. "I just know what we've been able to accomplish is really meaningful and something that not many players have been able to experience."
Curry led Golden State with 37 points, and Kevin Durant had a triple-double: 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
"To win in a sweep feels pretty good," said Durant, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the Finals for the second straight year.
Over the four games, he averaged 34 points, 10 assists and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 52.7 per cent from the field.
"I'm just trying to prove to myself that I could just stay in it for the long haul, and hopefully I continue to have some success," he added.
The Warriors rediscovered their rhythm at the right time. They had an uneven regular season, losing 10 of their last 17 games. Warriors coach Kerr even said he was concerned about whether his players would be able to "turn it up" once the play-offs started.
But Golden State were seriously challenged only once in the post-season - by the Houston Rockets, who took the Western Conference Finals to their seven-game limit.
On Friday, the Warriors showcased their firepower. In the first quarter, three players made three-pointers in a span of 43 seconds. The Cavaliers could never match that sort of versatility.
All three title wins have come against the Cavs, with the series clincher coming in Cleveland for the second time.
"It was definitely the toughest," Kerr said in comparing the three championships.
Las Vegas bookmakers last week listed the Warriors as the prohibitive favourites to win next year.
James finished with 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in what could have been his final game with the Cavaliers. He can become a free agent on July 1, and his future is uncertain.
After Friday's game, he disclosed that he had seriously injured his right hand in a fit of frustration after the Cavaliers lost Game 1.
ESPN reported he hit a blackboard in the locker room after that game and underwent two MRI exams that showed the fracture.
"Pretty much played the last three games with a broken hand," said James, who wore a brace on the hand at his news conference.
Asked whether he had played his last game with the Cavaliers, he said: "I have no idea at this point."
NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS