In hindsight, the result of the NBA Finals was clinched in Game 3. Friday night’s Game 4 in Cleveland turned out to be a mere victory lap.
The Warriors, in terms of their personnel and peak potential, are the best team in the NBA. But too often in this season and the playoffs, they looked hesitant and underwhelming, winning games but not completely decimating opponents in the fashion that fans expect of them.
With the title on the line on Friday night (Saturday morning) in India, Golden State decided to stop messing around and unleash their brilliance in full force. It turned out to be the most lopsided game of the Finals, with Warriors playing their best defence of the series to win easily, 108-85. The victory ended the series 4-0 in favour of the Warriors, only the ninth sweep in the 72-year history of the Finals and the first since 2007.
The Warriors have now won back-to-back NBA titles, their third in fourth years — all against the Cavaliers — and their sixth overall going back to their incarnations as the Philadelphia and San Francisco Warriors, too.
Stephen Curry, the lynchpin of Golden State’s golden-era over the past few years, was electric in Game 4 after his Game 3 struggles. Curry was the game’s leading scorer with 37, and many of these points came off improbable long-range three-pointers and fearless drives to the basket.
While the night belonged to Curry, the Finals MVP of the series was Kevin Durant. Durant capped off an efficient Finals with a triple double in Game 4 (20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) to follow up his incredible Game 3 heroics (43 points, 13 rebounds). This was Durant’s second-consecutive title and Finals MVP award since he made the massive decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Warriors two years ago.
While the dominant duo carried much of Golden State’s offensive force, their silent heroics were in defence. Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Jordan Bell, JaVale McGee, and of course Curry and Durant, too, all played disciplined defence all game, holding the Cavs to 34.5 percent from the field, 8-27 from the three-point line and even matching the bigger Cleveland side in rebounds 44-44.
The Warriors got the hot start this time, but the Cavs kept it close and even took a 1-point lead in the second quarter. Golden State took a 61-52 lead into halftime, and as usual, it was their hard quarter that provided the nail in the coffin: a 25-13 run that crushed Cleveland’s spirits and started the celebrations early among fans back in Oakland.
Cleveland’s hero LeBron James, after so many heroics earlier in the series, looked completely gassed in Game 4. James had a pedestrian game by his standards (23 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) and it was later revealed that he had played the last three games of the series with a serious hand injury, suffered after he punched a white-board from his Game 1 frustrations. It was the first time LeBron has been swept in the playoffs since the 2007 Finals by the San Antonio Spurs.
While the Cavaliers had to deal with the present reality of Game 4, there was a larger cloud that hung over the night: LeBron’s future. With James entering free agency, his future is set to become the biggest storyline of the upcoming NBA offseason. LeBron carried a sub-par squad miraculously to the Finals on his own brilliance, but simply didn’t have enough to challenge the star-studded Warriors in the Finals — especially after the heartbreaker in Game 1. In the next month, he will make a decision that could have a potential ripple effect over many more teams around the league.
The Cavs will be looking to the future now, pondering many more questions about the futures of coach Tyronn Lue, Kevin Love, and other role players like Jeff Green, Rodney Hood, and more. The Cavs have an 8th pick in the upcoming draft and could either rebuild or package the pick to try and build a contender again. Everything, as it usually does in Cleveland, will depend on LeBron.
The Warriors, however, have no such problems in the immediate future. When the celebratory champagne is finally rubbed off, Golden State will be looking at a more stable future, and their main order of business will be to resign Durant and continue to keep their core four stars — Durant, Curry, Green, Thompson — together for another run at the title.
The season is now over, and while 29 other teams will go into the offseason aiming at the title, the Warriors will sit on the throne once again as consecutive champions. This victory has solidified their place as one of the greatest teams that the NBA has ever seen — enjoy the show while you can!
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Updated Date: Jun 09, 2018 20:53:46 IST