OAKLAND, Calif. – Three-one is now done.
After blowing a 3-1 NBA Finals lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, the Golden State Warriors made sure history didn’t repeat.
Unlike last season, the Warriors led this series 3-0 before falling Friday night to the Cavs, who needed a record-setting offensive performance to push the Finals back to the Bay Area.
“I wouldn’t call it revenge, it’s just making the most of the opportunity that was in front of us,” Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said. “We feel like we were right there last year, and you learn through your down times or disappointing times. I feel like that’s a part of the growth. I feel like we have grown from that.”
With Durant, the 2014 league MVP, in the mix after being last summer’s biggest free-agent catch, there was no way Golden State was going to blow this one as he finished with 39 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He averaged 35.2 points on 55.5 percent shooting and shot 47.4 percent from 3-point range in the Finals.
“I just tried to stay in the moment the whole series, and I think that worked for me,” Durant said. “I remember plenty of times throughout my career I continued to just look in the past and look ahead and not stay in the moment. In this series I just stayed in the moment.”
Curry, a two-time league MVP, faced plenty of criticism after a subpar Game 4 in which he had 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting and 10 assists, and turned over the ball four times and was a team-worst minus-25. On Monday, he rebounded with 34 points and 10 assists.
“Steph is — I never seen nobody like him,” Durant said. “I told him last night. I said, ‘When you play with force, like, I never seen a player like you before.’ And he played with force tonight.”
With the victory, Golden State wrapped up a 16-1 postseason run after finishing the regular season 67-15.
“Five games didn’t do it justice, just for how competitive it was,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “There were times where I was just stunned looking at the talent on the floor between both teams.”
The Cavs shot 62.5 percent from the floor in the first quarter and had a 10-9 rebounding edge to end the quarter with a 37-33 lead. But it was far from great basketball as the teams combined for 16 fouls and 12 turnovers.
It was a back-and-forth game through much of the second quarter until Durant hit a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 45-43 lead with 6:37 remaining. That seemed to open the floodgates as the Warriors stormed to a 60-45 advantage with 3:25 left.
“He had an amazing series, just dominated,” Kerr said of Durant. “Everybody for the last 10 years knew how good he was, but until you break through and win that first championship, there is still … there’s always still something there. I’m just so happy Kevin has broken through, and there’s more to come from him.”
David West and Tristan Thompson then got into an odd confrontation with 3:08 remaining after West got tangled with Kyrie Irving while fighting for a rebound. Thompson got chest to chest with West after the play was ruled a jump ball, resulting in a long stoppage, a review and technical fouls on West, Thompson and J.R. Smith.
After Curry made the technical free throw, James immediately hit a 3-pointer after the ensuing jump ball to cut the Warriors lead to 61-48.
Golden State seemed to have more energy and hustle, coming up with loose balls and key rebounds, to take a 71-60 halftime lead. The Warriors’ bench outscored the Cavs’ reserves 19-2, with Durant and Curry combining for 41 points and four 3-pointers in the first half.
The Cavs trimmed the lead to three early in the fourth quarter behind yet another brilliant game from LeBron James, who finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. He averaged 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the series and despite losing his fifth Finals in eight appearances, he remained the best player on the court. Things continued to feel a bit uneasy for the home crowd until Durant hit a layup with 5:01 remaining to give the Warriors a 118-106 lead.
“We ran against … a worthy opponent, one of the best playoff teams that this league has ever seen, obviously, and we weren’t able to get over the hump and accomplish what we ultimately wanted to do,” James said. “But it’s no such thing as a failed season when you put in as much work as we have done individually and as a ball club since September.”
Kyrie Irving pitched in 26 points, and Smith was the surprise of the evening with 25 points and seven 3-pointers.
But the Cavs simply didn’t have enough for this year’s Warriors, previous championship runners-up who were elevated to super-team status with the addition of Durant.
“If Kevin Durant was the consolation for [last year’s] loss, thanks for the loss,” Draymond Green said. “Now we’re champs again.”
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