CLEVELAND — There were still a few seconds left on the clock when the Golden State Warriors stormed off their bench to begin a celebration that wasn’t guaranteed.
They couldn’t wait any longer.
They had reached their destination: dynasty.
Stephen Curry scored 37 points, Kevin Durant added a triple-double and another NBA Finals MVP trophy and the Warriors won their second consecutive title and third in four years Friday night, 108-85 against the Cleveland Cavaliers to complete a sweep and perhaps drive LeBron James from his home again to chase championships.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there is no denying them.
“That’s how you know we’re a great team, is when everybody’s coming after us,” Durant said. “Whether it’s opponents, whether it’s different coaches panning for us, whether it’s the fans, the media that hate us, it feels good when you’re the team that everybody’s gunning for. It makes us better. It makes us come to work and try to play at that championship level every single day, and that’s the hardest part.”
Golden State. Golden standard.
Overcoming obstacles all season long, the Warriors won their fourth consecutive finals matchup against James and Cleveland with ease.
It was the first sweep in the NBA Finals since 2007, when James was dismissed by a powerful San Antonio team in his first one. His eighth appearance in a row didn’t go well either, and now there’s uncertainty where the superstar will play next.
James, who said he “pretty much played the last three games with a broken hand” after injuring himself in frustration following Game 1, finished with 23 points and spent the final minutes on the bench, contemplating what went wrong and maybe his next move.
Following the game, he sat quietly in his corner locker with a towel draped over his head. He arrived at his postgame news conference with a large black brace on his right hand. James explained the injury was “self-inflicted” following an overtime loss in Game 1, which included a reversed official’s call and teammate J.R. Smith dribbling out the clock to end regulation.
“I had emotions on the game was taken away from us,” James said. “I had emotions of, you just don’t get an opportunity like this on the road versus Golden State to be able to get a Game 1, and I let the emotions get the best of me. Pretty much played the last three games with a broken hand, so that’s what it is.”
Act IV between the Warriors and Cavs featured a drama-filled Game 1. But from there on, Durant, Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green and the rest of this California crew showed why they’re the game’s gold standard.
And they may stay that way.
Not wanting to give the Cavs or their fans any hope despite the fact that no team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in the NBA playoffs, the Warriors built a nine-point halftime lead when Curry ignored a closeout by James and dropped a 3-pointer.
Then the league’s best team tightened the screws on Cleveland in the third quarter, outscoring the Cavs 25-13 and prompting Golden State fans to begin those drawn-out “War-eee-orrss” chants that provide a perfect musical accompaniment to their 3-point barrages.