Cleveland - Snapping a 40-year title drought, the Golden State Warriors downed Cleveland 105-97 on Tuesday to capture the NBA Finals and become one of the league's most unconventional championship teams.
Andre Iguodala, the first player to earn NBA
Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors without starting every game of
the series, and Steph Curry, the 3-point sharpshooter who won NBA regular-season MVP honors, each scored 25 points as the Warriors took the best-of-seven title series four games to two.
"World champions," Curry said. "This is something special. This is a
special group. From the start of the season this is what we envisioned."
Golden State became the first team since the 1991 Chicago Bulls to win a title with no players having prior NBA Finals experience.
Steve Kerr, who won five titles as a player with Chicago and San
Antonio, became the first rookie coach to capture the crown since Pat
Riley with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982.
"I almost forgot how grueling this stretch is, two straight months of
emotional and physical stress, just the roller coaster ride you are
on," Kerr said of the playoff run. "There's a lot of pent-up energy and
relief more than anything in that locker room."
Iguodala spent 758 career games as a starter before being consigned
to a reserve role this season, only to have Kerr start him in the last
three finals games to produce a quicker lineup that wore down the
"This is awesome," said Iguodala, who saved his season-high scoring
night for the decider. "We're going to remember this for a long time."
Iguodala averaged 7.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in the regular season but 16.3 points and 5.8 rebounds, becoming the first NBA Finals MVP who didn't start a single game for his team in the regular season.
As importantly, he played stellar defense against Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, who became the first player to lead an NBA Finals in all three major statistical areas - averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists.
"Exhausting," Iguodala said. "You have to put so much effort in trying to contain him because you can't really stop him."
But the best team proved more than the greatest player could handle
and Iguodala joined Magic Johnson as a rookie with the 1980 Lakers as
the only finals MVPs who played alongside a season MVP.
"What a team win for the Warriors and an epic season for Steph,"
tweeted US President Barack Obama. "Kudos to LeBron and the Cavs for an
unbelievable effort under adversity."
Draymond Green added 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for Golden
State, which won a league-best 67 games this season and led the NBA in defense, scoring and shooting percentage.
"This has been a long ride," Iguodala said. "It's been a great season, and we're just going to enjoy the moment."
Curry became only the sixth player to win his first MVP and first
title in the same season, the first since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000.
He joined Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy as the only point guards to win the regular-season NBA MVP award and league title in the same season.
It was a thrill he shared with his father Dell, a former NBA standout who never claimed the crown.
"He played 16 years and never got the chance to enjoy this," Curry
said. "He is living through me and my team-mates. Unimaginable feeling."
James scored 32 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and passed out nine
assists to again lead the Cavaliers, but he could not bring Cleveland
its first sports title since 1964.
James said injuries that sidelined star forward Kevin Love in the
first round of the playoffs and star guard Kyrie Irving in the finals
opener were too much to overcome.
"There's a lot of talent sitting in suits," James said. "We ran out of talent."
"It just wasn't our time."
James fell to 2-4 in NBA Finals
appearances but refused to call this his greatest finals disappointment,
saying "They are all disappointing, doesn't matter if I'm playing in
Miami or Cleveland or Mars.
Trailing 47-45, the Warriors unleashed a 24-8 run in the third
quarter, Iguodala scoring seven points while Festus Ezeli netted the
last six points, the Nigerian's 3-point play giving Golden State a 69-55
James pulled the Cavs within seven but Curry and Iguodala each had
two 3-pointers in a 17-9 run for a 92-77 edge with 6:01 to play.
Cleveland's J.R. Smith hit three 3-pointers and James a late layup as
the Cavs pulled within 101-97 but Curry and Iguodala sank late free
throws to seal the victory.