Despite the series lasting just five games, the Cavaliers put quite a scare in the Warriors by nearly winning Game 3, dominating Golden State in Game 4, and then playing them hard until the final minutes of Game 5. LeBron James averaged a triple-double for the series, Kyrie Irving was at his absolute best, but they were simply outgunned as Durant and Stephen Curry carried the Warriors’ offense through the series.
Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, who has won titles in two of his three seasons as a coach, took the opportunity to praise himself in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
“We have very little talent, actually, it was most coaching,” he deadpanned before saying he had the best job in the world.
In praising his team, Joe Lacob, the Warriors’ owner, singled out Stephen Curry and Draymond Green before adding “and Kevin, thanks for coming” to which Durant smiled and replied “yes, sir!”
That exchange left little doubt who would be named the Finals M.V.P, and shortly after Durant, who averaged 35.2 points a game, was given the Bill Russell trophy.
When handed the trophy, Durant held it up to the crowd before repeatedly praising his teammates and the fans in Oakland for his success.
Curry, who gave up some of the spotlight and offensive burden when he courted Durant in the off-season, said he was happy to bring “Ol’ Larry” back home, in reference to the Larry O’Brien Trophy — awarded to the N.B.A. champions.
In familiar fashion, the loquacious Draymond Green was the most willing player to talk, addressing his Game 5 suspension last year, which many cited as a reason for the team’s eventual collapse.
“We had a letdown last year, I had a letdown last year,” Green said. “But, like I told everyone before, if Kevin Durant was the consolation prize to lose, thanks for that loss.”
In Game 5, Durant was unstoppable, shooting 14 of 20 from the field, but Curry was terrific as well with 34 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds. Andre Iguodala, the 2015 Finals M.V.P. had a turn-back-the-clock game on offense with 20 points, with several key baskets in the second half that helped build the Warriors’ lead.
Despite having nearly the entire roster eligible for free agency, the Warriors are expected to bring the entire core back next year, and have the seeds for a dynasty, with two titles in three seasons to go with a record-setting three-year regular season run in which the team has gone 207-39. But considering the Cavaliers’ dominance in the Eastern Conference playoffs, there is little to reason these teams will not be back next season for a fourth finals matchup in a row.
Here’s how the Warriors won Game 5:
1st Quarter: Warriors Take an Early Lead
Game 5 was underway at 9:11 p.m. Eastern when Tristan Thompson of the Cavaliers won the opening tip over Zaza Pachulia of the Warriors.
After a chippy Game 4, Klay Thompson was whistled for a foul just 12 seconds into Game 5 as the referees try to set an early precedent.
After a little more than two minutes of play, the Warriors were leading 6-4 thanks to a technical free-throw caused by a 3-second violation, a Kevin Durant layup and a Draymond Green 3-pointer.
Cavaliers Respond With a Run of Their Own
Kevin Love was forced to the bench early in the quarter thanks to two quick fouls as the referees have continued to call the game tightly. But the Cavaliers absolutely exploded after he came out of the game with a combination of aggressive defense and quality offense. Kyrie Irving stole the ball from Stephen Curry and LeBron James intercepted an outlet pass and suddenly a 9-4 lead for the Warriors had turned into a 13-9 advantage for the Cavaliers. Coach Steve Kerr had seen enough of Cleveland’s momentum-stealing play and called a timeout with just under nine minutes remaining in the quarter.
The Cavaliers are 6 for 7 from the field so far.
Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant in Early Foul Trouble
The Cavaliers have continued to play an incredibly physical style on defense, and it has thus far greatly frustrated the Warriors, who can’t seem to find open shots and can’t get to the rim to make up for it. Meanwhile the tightly-called game has resulted in Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant both joining Kevin Love with two fouls in the quarter.
Draymond Green specifically mentioned early fouls as a reason for Golden State not being able to play aggressively in Game 4, so Thompson and Durant both altering their style on the defensive end could certainly be impactful in this game.
LeBron James has not cooled off at all in a finals in which he has been nearly unstoppable. He is already up to 12 points, with the rest of his team combining for 10.
Cavs Close out 1st Quarter With the Lead
With Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Kevin Love all on the bench with early foul trouble, the game had a few more first quarter participants than expected, and the Cavaliers were able to take advantage, with a 37-33 lead.
The fouls and turnovers have been heavy on both sides in a tightly-contested but sloppy game. But after the Warriors briefly took a lead with 37 seconds remaining in the quarter, it was all Cleveland, with the Cavaliers going on a 6-0 run.
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry all tied as the top scorer in the quarter with 12 points, though Irving came off as the most impressive, hitting seemingly unmakeable shots and scoring four points end of the quarter.
2nd Quarter: Warriors Keep It Close Despite Cold Shooting
The Warriors are only losing by two points with 7:38 remaining in the quarter despite having gone 2 for 11 from 3-point range in Game 5. The cold shooting has prevented what could be a near blowout if they were shooting up to their usual standards, but they appear to be adjusting some, with Andre Iguodala making a statement with a huge dunk over LeBron James.
Cleveland is still getting outsized contributions from Kyrie Irving and James, but if they want to build a cushion in time to hold off Golden State’s shooters from warming up, they will have to get more from the rest of the team. Kevin Love, who has played just 7 minutes because of foul trouble, is definitely someone they need back in and scoring.
Durant Sparks a Huge Run for Warriors
It looked like the Warriors could be in trouble when Draymond Green picked up two fouls in a span of just six seconds, but after Kevin Love missed a pair of free-throws, Kevin Durant hit a 3-pointer that gave the lead back to Golden State. Then the Warriors’ potent offense woke up. The Cavaliers have continued to play sloppy on both ends of the court and the Warriors took advantage, going on a 21-2 run that finally ended when J.R. Smith hit a long 2-pointer. With just under four minutes remaining, the Warrior have a 15-point advantage and are in control.
Pushing and Shoving as Warriors Pull Away
David West came down with a rebound and got tangled up with Kyrie Irving. They fought for the ball and as they were separating, West shoved Irving with his free hand, earning himself a technical foul.
West then compounded matters by going chest-to-chest with Tristan Thompson. The officials took a long look at the review to determine how to call the play, and ended up giving technical fouls to both Thompson and J.R. Smith, who got involved after the fact. West avoided being hit with a double-technical, which would have resulted in his ejection.
Halftime: Warriors in Control as Cavs Look for Answers
The first half of Game 5 felt a lot like the second half of Game 4 in terms of aggressiveness and chippiness between the teams, but the results have been far more in Golden State’s favor, with a 21-2 run early in the second quarter opening up a healthy lead for the Warriors. Golden State led, 71-60, at halftime.
The tensions of the game reached their apex late in the second quarter when David West tussled with both Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, but even in that chaos the Golden State offensive machine continued to churn. The Warriors ended up outscoring the Cavaliers 38-23 in the quarter, playing tight defense and leaving Cleveland’s players searching for answers.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant tied for the first-half lead with 21 points, but in the biggest offensive departure from Game 4, Stephen Curry was nearly as hot, scoring 20. After starting the game 2 for 12 from 3-point range, the Warriors closed the first half making 5 of their last 7 attempts. Cleveland’s Kevin Love got into early foul trouble and finished the half with 0 points.
For Cleveland to get back into the game in the second half they will need to cut down on turnovers, slow down the Warriors’ offense, and quiet down the crowd in Oakland, which has reached raucous levels.
3rd Quarter: Cavs Start Strong and Cut Into Warriors’ Lead
Klay Thompson opened up the second half with a 3-pointer over Kevin Love, but a series of fouls and mistakes has let Cleveland get off to a mild 11-8 advantage in the third quarter. J.R. Smith has continued the hot shooting he showed at the end of the first half and with the Golden State lead now in single digits, the Warriors took a timeout to regroup and to slow down the Cleveland momentum.
Aggressive Cavs Get Back in the Game
The Cavaliers have been a team reborn in the second half, fighting for rebounds, getting to the hoop and not making anything easy for the Warriors.
The aggressiveness of the referees in the first half created numerous open looks for the Warriors’ shooters, but with their backs against the wall, Cleveland appears to have decided it is time to ignore the possibility of fouls and go after the Warriors.
Golden State’s advantage is holding up, with an Andre Iguodala dunk giving them a 10-point lead with five minutes remaining in the third quarter, but the Cavaliers found a blueprint for frustrating the Warriors, and are looking to exploit it to avoid another extended run like the one that nearly sunk them in the second quarter.
Once Again, Durant Gives Warriors a Boost
Cleveland cut the Golden State lead all the way down to 4 points with 3:33 remaining in the third quarter, but Kevin Durant showed exactly why the Warriors wanted him by nailing a perfect 3-pointer that brought the lead back to seven and forced the Cavaliers to take a timeout. As things fell apart in last year’s finals, the Warriors struggled to answer the domination of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, but Durant has proved to be the offensive equalizer they were missing when Cleveland works to trap Stephen Curry and thus negate his offensive ability.
4th Quarter: Cavs Cut Warriors’ Lead to 5
The Warriors are now 12 minutes from the team’s second championship in three seasons, as they enter the fourth quarter with a 98-93 lead over the Cavaliers.
Golden State has received huge games from Kevin Durant (28 points) and Stephen Curry (25), but has also gotten a lot of help with 28 points off the bench (compared to 4 from Cleveland’s reserves). Andre Iguodala has been the top bench contributor with 13 points, but Patrick McCaw, the Golden State rookie, was also a tenacious contributor in the third quarter and has 6 key points in the game.
There has been no quit in Cleveland, despite Golden State occasionally opening up double-digit leads. They stayed turnover-free in the third quarter, and if there is anything holding them back from a fourth-quarter comeback it may be the health of Kyrie Irving. Irving has 26 points thus far and LeBron James has 27. If not for a total disappearing act by Kevin Love, who has 2 points, Cleveland might not be losing.
Back and Forth: James and Durant Trade Baskets
LeBron James was the first to score in the fourth quarter, with a powerful drive to the basket against Kevin Durant, but Durant was able to answer with a turnaround jumper over James to equalize the points. The battle of wills between arguably the two best players in the game has provided plenty of entertainment in a series that was initially written off as boring when Games 1 and 2 were blowouts.
After a pair of free-throws by Draymond Green, the Warriors have increased their lead to 10 points with 9:17 remaining in the game, and James has headed to the bench for a short rest so he can be fresh at the end of the game.
Warriors Pull Away Down the Stretch
With LeBron James on the bench, Cleveland got one point from a Kevin Love free throw but after a timeout — and just 27 seconds of clock time — James was back on the court. Despite James’s return, the Warriors got dunks from Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala and increased their lead to 112-102 with 7:42 remaining in the game.
Durant is up to 35 points, making a strong case for Finals M.V.P. if Golden State holds on to win this game.
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