The Golden State Warriors ended their 40-year NBA title drought Wednesday as they held off LeBron James and rest of Cleveland Cavaliers 105-97 during Game 6 of the championship series.
Andre Iguodala, who scored 25 points and put up an excellent defensive wall against James, was named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. NBA regular season MVP Steph Curry also scored 25 points while keeping the game’s tempo in favor of the Warriors.
The Warriors’ barrage of three’s during the final quarter kept the Cavs at bay even as LeBron and his team staged a mini run. The undermanned Cavaliers narrowed the lead to just four with 29.1 seconds left, but it was just not enough.
“This is special. To be able to hold this trophy and all the hard work we’ve put into it this season, this is special. We’re definitely a great team and a team that should go down in history as one of the best teams from top to bottom,” Curry said.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who just took over from Mark Jackson last year, downsized his team’s lineup in Game 4 to what would turn out to be a golden strategy to the seal the title. He gave Iguodala his first start in the season and benched ineffective Andrew Bogut for Draymond Green.
Playing small ball, the Warriors managed to outpace the Cavs in the succeeding games with quick switches and a more mobile Curry.
With the Game 6 win, Kerr became the first rookie head coach to lead his team to the NBA title since Pat Riley led the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982 to victory.
James meanwhile fell to his fourth loss in the NBA Finals in six trips, failing on his promise to give Cavs its championship ring. He finished with 32 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists.
As the final buzzer sounded, James extended a conceding hand to Curry and quickly left the court with dejection.
“I don’t know, for me, it’s never a success if you go out losing,” James said. “Doesn’t matter if I’m playing in Miami or playing in Cleveland or playing on Mars.”
‘Out of talent’
LeBron, who left Miami Heat last year after losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals, had to steer the Cavaliers without all-stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. “We ran out of talent,” he said.
Not only did the Cavs lacked valuable support in Game 6 – they also turned over the ball at a terrible rate of 19 times (which was converted by Warriors to 25 points). Golden State committed only nine turnovers.
The Cavs tried to bank on Timofey Mozgov’s interior play during the first half. But the Warriors’ quick defensive switches thwarted Cleveland’s attempt to own the paint. Iguodala meanwhile held on to the toughest defensive assignment in the league, restraining James’ mobility and forcing turnovers. At the half, the Cavs trailed by only two 45-43.
During the third quarter, Cleveland tried to run away from the Golden State. But Iguodala’s shooting blitz staved off a potential Cavs run, as Festus Ezeli dealt with Mozgov.
In the final quarter, it was more of Warrrior’s shooting spree until LeBron capped the Cavs’ mini-run with a dunk of a steal. Cavs’ J.R. Smith contributed to the run, scoring 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.
But it was still the Warriors who controlled the pace in the final second of the game.
Curry, who has left a mark for his nearly flawless offensive play, has set a NBA Playoffs record for most three-pointers shot and made. His 232 attempts beat Dennis Scott’s 151, and his 98 made treys outscored Reggie Millers’ 56.