Posted on June 13, 2017, by Travis Pulver
As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Game Five of the NBA Finals Monday night, there was one thing that was certain. Kevin Durant would be named the Finals MVP. Making clutch shots as he did in Game Three, playing solid defense against some of the best players in the NBA, and averaging more than 35 points a game will certainly put you in contention for MVP honors.
But was he really the best choice for the honor? Was he the best player on the floor? Many would answer that with an unequivocal yes. But they would be overlooking the performance of two other guys—Steph Curry and LeBron James.
Curry didn’t score as much as Durant, but his overall game was impressive. He recorded a double-double in four games and a triple double in the other. His three-point prowess was pivotal to the wins in Games One and Three. It was off in Game Four and Five, but in Five he found other ways to score and ended the night with 34 points.
So—why did Durant deserve it over Curry? Durant did have the clutch shot in Game Three. He averaged nearly ten points a game more than Curry (35.2 points/game to 26.8 points/game). It probably helped that Durant still scored 35 when he had an off-night in Game Four while Curry only chipped in 14.
When the Warriors got off to a slow start in Game Five, Durant helped keep the Warriors in the game (he was 5-7 from the floor; the rest of the team was 10-31).
Perhaps if Curry made a statement with his Game Five performance like Durant did (39 points, seven rebounds, five assists; shot 70 percent from the floor and 62.5 percent from three-point range), he would have won it.
Curry played well, but Durant played better. Other guys on the roster had good games for the Warriors, but no one else had as good a series. But someone on the other roster did—LeBron James.
James did something never done in NBA Finals history—he averaged a triple-double (33 points. 12 rebounds, and ten assists) over the course of the series. He had a triple-double in two games, Two (29 points, 11 rebounds, and 14 assists) and Four (31 points, ten rebounds, 11 assists).
The second kept the Warriors from completing the first undefeated postseason in NBA history.
James’ play had the Cavs in Game Three, led to the win in Game Four, and nearly led to another win in Game Five. So how come he’s not the MVP? Easy—we prefer to give awards like that to someone on the winning team. Guys on losing teams can play great games, but if their play doesn’t result in a win, how great could their game have been?
There has only been one series that saw an NBA Finals MVP from the losing team (1969; Jerry West). It was also the first time an NBA Finals MVP was named.
The MVP is decided by a panel of 11 media members ranging from national broadcasters to beat reporters. They named James a unanimous MVP last year. The year before—when the Warriors won the series in six—four voted for James and the other seven for Andre Iguodala (largely for his defense while guarding James).
With the series ending in five games, Durant was the clear-cut choice for MVP (hence the vote being unanimous).
But had the series made it to seven games or even six, it would have been because of James—who, win or lose, would have definitely been deserving of MVP honors.