The Golden State Warriors clinched their second NBA title in three years by defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in game five of the NBA Finals. In so doing, the team achieved redemption for their shock loss in last year’s Finals after leading the best of seven series against the Cavaliers three games to one. Let’s take a look at how each game played out.
The Warriors and Cavaliers meeting in the 2017 NBA Finals was the first time in NBA history that the same two teams have competed against each other for the title for three consecutive years.
With one win each, that made this effectively a play-off that many experts and fans had pencilled in almost a year ago, and anticipation was high ahead of game one.
However, the game fizzled out early in the third quarter as the Warriors extended an eight-point lead at halftime to 21 by the final break.
Kevin Durant, who was making his first appearance in The Finals since 2012, led the Warriors in scoring with 38 points whilst shooting a blistering 53 percent from the field. All-Star teammate Steph Curry added 28 points and 10 assists, while Klay Thompson played an integral part on the defensive end of the floor.
LeBron James, who was playing in his seventh straight Finals, finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists for the Cavaliers who were overwhelmed by the Warriors’ offensive firepower and turned the ball over 20 times.
A lot of those 20 turnovers were live-ball that fueled GSW breaks. Have to re-watch, but felt game was decided bit more on Cle O/GSW D end
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) June 2, 2017
The Warriors went on to win 113-91 to take a 1-0 series lead and stamp their authority on the series from the outset.
Emboldened by their first came performance, the Warriors received an extra boost ahead of this second game with the news that head coach Steve Kerr would be returning to the team after missing six weeks due to a debilitating back injury.
Kerr took the reins back from assistant coach Mike Brown, who had guided the team to an undefeated post season so far.
Unsurprisingly this second game played out much like the first. The Warriors overpowered the Cavs on the offensive end of the floor. Golden State put up 132 points on Cleveland, including 40 in the first quarter alone.
Cleveland’s defence had been an area of concern throughout the season, with the team featuring a defensive rating of 108.0, placing them 22nd in the league out of 30 teams. Their troubles on that side of the ball were exposed once again in game two, with the Cavs unable to stop Durant and Curry for a second consecutive game.
The duo combined to score 65 points and eight three-pointers as the Warriors routed the Cavaliers 132-113. Curry also notched up a triple-double with 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
LeBron James recorded a triple-double of his own with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists – and in the process matching the legendary Magic Johnson for the most triple-doubles in NBA Finals history.
But his stellar play wasn’t enough, and the Cavs found themselves in a 0-2 hole heading back to Cleveland for the third game.
Golden State were dominating the series and there was talk of a 4-0 sweep among some fans. But with the series moving to Cleveland, and LeBron James becoming the best player of this era, the Cavs were expected to mount a significant challenge in front of their hometown crowd.
Unlike the previous two games in Oakland, the Cavaliers were able to stick with the Warriors through the first half and mount a lead for themselves in the third quarter. Kyrie Irving, who struggled in games one and two, exploded for 38 points and was back to his very best, beating defenders off the dribble and finishing magnificently around the basket for Cleveland.
James posted 39 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists while Cleveland finally got good contributions from role players such as JR Smith and Tristan Thompson.
The Cavaliers had a six-point buffer with three minutes to play in the fourth quarter and looked to be on their way to their first win of the series.
But with the Warriors trailing 111-113 with 45 seconds remaining, Kevin Durant had other ideas, scoring 14 points in the last quarter to help the Warriors snatch victory in the final seconds.
In one of the finest moments of the game, Durant collected a rebound, dribbled up the court, and calmly nailed a three pointer with LeBron James right in his face. It was undoubtedly, the biggest shot of Durant’s career to date and will stand the test of time when discussing the biggest shots in NBA history.
Kevin Durant is cold blooded. What a clutch shot. pic.twitter.com/zFwVzl0rJV
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) June 8, 2017
Golden State went on to secure the 118-113 victory, with Klay Thompson pouring in 30 points and Steph Curry adding 26 for the Warriors.
Forty-eight hours later, Cleveland quickly put the loss behind them and built upon their solid performance to obliterate the Warriors and stave off elimination.
It was a historic night for Cleveland, as the team set the record for most points scored in the first half of a Finals game with 86. Kevin Love made six shots from downtown on his way to scoring 23 points, while JR Smith added five three-pointers of his own, helping the Cavs as a team make 24 from long distance.
Kyrie Irving and LeBron James also combined for 71 points, helping Cleveland flip the script on Golden State. All of a sudden, pressure was mounting on the Warriors to close out the series, with Cleveland showing real signs of life heading back to Oakland for game five.
With the Warriors just 48 minutes away from capturing their second title in three years, there was a significant buzz inside Oracle Arena as the game got underway. Cleveland now had momentum and a real belief they could repeat last year’s heroics.
But they didn’t have Kevin Durant – a four-time scoring champ and former league MVP who had joined the Warriors as a free agent in the offseason to much scrutiny.
Durant took 39 points on an astounding 14-20 shooting from the field. Nothing the Cavaliers threw at him worked. He took bigger defenders off the dribble, backed smaller defenders down in the post and scored in almost every way possible.
Other players of note included Steph Curry, who had 34 points and 10 assists, Andre Iguodala, who added 20 off of the bench, and Draymond Green, who posted a double-double for the Warriors with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The Cavaliers didn’t go down without a fight, with Cleveland pulling to within three points at the start of the fourth quarter.
And LeBron James had arguably his best statistical Finals series ever, closing out with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists. His performance in the series has solidified him as tone of the best players in NBA history, and certainly the best since Michael Jordan. James simply couldn’t have done any more for his team.
We live in a world where LeBron avg'd 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists in a Finals and won't get Finals MVP. Warriors that good.
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 13, 2017
When the final buzzer sounded, the Warriors had won 129-120, and closed out the series 4-1. Kevin Durant was named Finals MVP and the Warriors collected their fifth championship in franchise history.
Feature Image by Johnko from Flickr / Golden State Warriors vs Detroit Pistons 2013.03.13 – used under Creative Commons licence.