Posted on June 13, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Last year, when the NBA Finals returned to Oakland for Game Five, the Warriors felt like they would absolutely bring home their second title in two seasons. Even without a suspended Draymond Green in the lineup, they felt like they could win. They, of course, did not and went on to lose the Finals in seven.
This year they were determined to make the outcome a little different. The Warriors were determined not to let their fans down—and they didn’t. But it wasn’t easy.
Cleveland got off to a strong start. They shot much better than the Warriors in the opening minutes of the game but were unable to maintain much of a lead. After one they lead by four, 37-33. A couple of minutes into the second quarter saw the Cavs stretch the lead out to eight points, 41-33.
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But then for about seven minutes, the Warriors found their shot and the Cavs lost their shot. Golden State went on a 28-4 run to take control of the game and essentially lock up their second title in three years.
“I think our guys just did a good job of hanging in there,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We kept the lead at six, eight points — or the deficit. And it was just a matter of time before we were going to break through. We had that huge run in the second quarter, which changed everything.”
Cleveland closed the gap to 11 points by halftime and was not going to go down without a fight. A strong showing in the third quarter cut the deficit down to five entering the fourth quarter. They kept it close, but with 2:30 left to play they were down by 11 points, 126-115.
They still had a chance—but they needed to make some shots and keep Golden State from hitting anymore. But when Steph Curry hit a three-pointer to make the score 129-115, the writing was on the wall. J.R. Smith would make the final score look a little better with a three-pointer in the final seconds of the game, but in the end—they still lost 129-120.
Cleveland certainly didn’t play a bad game. James led all scorers with 41 points and also had 13 rebounds and eight assists. Tristan Thompson finally scored a few points (15), and Kyrie Irving had a solid night as well (26 points).
Kevin Love had a disappointing night with just six points and ten rebounds. But J.R. Smith made up for it by going nuts from behind the three-point line (hitting seven of eight attempts) and chipping in 25 points.
The Cavs scored 25 points off of turnovers by the Warriors (13; four by Kevin Durant and four by Steph Curry). They shot better than the Warriors (53.4 percent to 51.1 percent; 45.8 percent to 36.8 percent from three-point range). Cleveland was better off the fast break (25-18), better with second-chance points (20-15), and dominated the paint (62-52).
So—how in the world did these guys lose?
Two things stand out for the Warriors—they shot better from the free throw line (Golden State: 23-28; Cleveland: 15-23) and had a more active bench (35-7).
Stars are the bread and butter of every team, but for a team to be the best, it has to be able to rely on its non-star players to play good basketball as well. Golden State could do that. Cleveland could not. LeBron James makes the Cavs a great team much like Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry make the Warriors great. But even the biggest players need a little help. Durant and Curry got it. James did not.
So, despite averaging a triple-double throughout the Finals, James goes home a loser, and Kevin Durant goes home an NBA Champion and Finals MVP proving that if you can’t beat ’em, it pays to join ’em.