Kevin Durant hugged everyone in sight. LeBron James, Stephen Curry, a security guard, his mother, coach Steve Kerr, a random fan, Warriors owners Joe Lacob, it didn’t matter. Everyone was encompassed at least once by Durant’s 7’5” wingspan. It was clear how much this meant to him. After all the flak he had faced for trying to win a championship by joining the most talented team in the league, he stood vindicated. Nothing less than a championship was acceptable. And a championship he had delivered.
Make no mistake, the 2017 NBA Finals is a Kevin Durant story.
He has been on this grand stage before. In the 2012 Finals, Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder played James’ Miami Heat. Durant lead all scorers in the series with 30.6 points per game but that wasn’t enough to defeat the superstars in the other team, namely Messrs James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Durant stuck around for a bit, picking up an MVP award, a scoring championship and making the All-Star team every year. Then last year, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals after going down 1-3. Durant had had enough. The Thunder weren’t winning the NBA Finals anytime soon and his prime playing days wouldn’t last forever. He joined the men who had vanquished the Thunder to form one of the most offensively powerful units the NBA has seen in recent times.
It took a little while but the Warriors finally started clicking. Curry got used to not being the top guy on the scoring charts every night and instead strengthened other aspects of his game, especially his defence. Draymond Green took his game up another notch and will surely be crowned Defensive Player of the Year. Klay Thompson stayed Klay which meant he made 3.4 three pointers a night in addition to performances like this. By the time the playoffs rolled around, the Warriors juggernaut was well and truly underway.
And what a juggernaut it has been. They steamrolled the Portland Trail Blazers, the Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs on their way to the Finals. They lost exactly zero games and picked up the Western Conference Championship with a perfect 12-0 record.
Then came the NBA Finals. And who else but the man who last denied Durant the championship stood in his path. Like Durant, James was on a different team but he was every bit the dominant player that he has been this decade. And he was backed up by the best one-on-one practitioner in the league in Kyrie Irving and double-double machine Kevin Love.
The Warriors raced out of the gate in Game 1. Durant and Curry basically took this one all on their own. Durant ended up with 38 points as the Cavaliers allowed him to run untouched to the basket multiple times. It was clear that the Cavaliers were just not ready for the Durant-Curry offence. The defence wasn’t set and the offence was stuttering (other than James of course who ended the night with a respectable 28 points).
Game 2 saw more of the same. Except, Klay also woke up as he made four three-pointers en route to 22 points. Durant dropped 33 while Curry recorded a triple-double. James responded with a triple-double of his own but when the Warriors offence is clicking like it was, they are absolutely unbeatable. The series looked like it might be done in four games.
In Game 3, the Cavaliers showed why they were the Eastern Conference champions as they got in the Warriors’ faces. The game was much more physical than the first two and the Warriors found it extremely hard to get their shots off. Irving went supernova as he made scoop layup after scoop layup. The Cavaliers led by five as the game went into the fourth quarter.
But then the Warriors responded. They did not let the Cavaliers score in the final two minutes while toting up 11 points for themselves. Durant made one of the shots of the Finals as he drained a 26-footer which effectively sealed the game. It wasn’t pretty but the Warriors got the job done.
The Cavaliers, however, had gathered belief in Game 3 and the first quarter of Game 4 was the most potent offensive performance ever seen in the NBA Finals. They were not letting the Warriors celebrate the championship in Cleveland, no sir. James recorded another triple-double while Irving dropped 40 points shooting 55.6 percent from the field. The crowd chanted “Cavs in 7” and a sudden fear erupted in Warrior ears. 0-3 had not been overcome before, but 1-3 had.
As Game 5 rolled around, Oakland was ready. Durant was locked in. He was taking this championship, the Cavaliers be damned. He scored 39 points shooting 70 percent from the field. Curry added 34 and Andre Iguodala (playing the most minutes he has this series) chipped in with 20. Apparently, the only way to beat this Warriors team is for your entire team to go supernova. The Cavaliers could not replicate their offensive masterclass of Game 4 and succumbed by nine points. The margin would have been much wider but for JR Smith making seven out of his eight three-point attempts.
The loss in the 2016 Finals had left the entire Warriors organisation reeling. They had felt the need to do something. Only that something turned out to be recruiting the best pure scorer in the NBA. Durant had been brought in with a purpose. As they lifted the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, they would certainly have felt that the purpose is now fulfilled.
Supervillains they might be, but at least they are supervillains with a Ring.
All statistics courtesy Basketball Reference.
Published Date: Jun 14, 2017 16:40 PM | Updated Date: Jun 14, 2017 17:03 PM