NBA

Kevin Durant hails 'incredible' team-mates after winning NBA Finals MVP as Golden State Warriors sweep Cleveland Cavaliers

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Kevin Durant was named the NBA Finals MVP for the second year running.

Kevin Durant hailed his inspirational team-mates as his Golden State Warriors team secured back-to-back NBA titles and he joined an exclusive club.

The Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the best-of-seven finals series, winning the fourth match in Ohio 108-85 on Friday to secure their third championship in four years.

Durant was chosen as the series’ Most Valuable Player, and became only the fifth player in history to register a 20-point triple-double in a title-clinching game.

Warriors guard Steph Curry contributed 37 points to the winning cause, as LeBron James and the Cavaliers lost out to the Oakland franchise for the second successive year.

Durant said: “This is about the journey – all season, getting up, going to work with these guys is amazing.

“The environment is incredible. It’s good for you to be around guys like this, it helps you become a better basketball player and a better man.

“I’m happy to be part of this group.”

Asked about the contest with Cavaliers superstar James, Durant added: “When you play against one of the best, it brings out the best in you as well.

“I’m just glad we got back-to-back championships and I’m looking forward to celebrating in the locker room right now.”

James revealed he had played the final three matches of the series with a broken hand, a “self-inflicted” injury, reportedly sustained when he punched a whiteboard after the overtime defeat in game one.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr admitted the talent in his team made this success easier to take in than previous successes.

“It was definitely the toughest from the standpoint that it was the fourth year in a row that we’ve attempted to get back to the finals,” he told reporters at a post-match press conference.

“I remember sitting in this room three years ago and this feels more like reality. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant. That’s just the talent we have, the experience we’ve gained.

“Three years ago it was ‘I can’t believe this happened’. But now it’s ‘I can definitely believe this happened’. But it was hard.”

After building a nine-point lead by half-time, the Warriors put the game out of Cleveland’s grasp with a third-quarter rally in which they outscored their opposition 25-13.

LeBron James left the court with 4:03 left on the clock and the Cavs down 102-77, having just turned over the ball to Durant while the game slipped out of their reach.

James had 23 points on the night, with his Cleveland side looking to do the improbable and overturn a 3-0 deficit for the first time in NBA Finals history.

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Golden State Warriors dominant as ever in clinching title with sweep of NBA Finals

Jay Asser 9/06/2018
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Golden State celebrate another title.

For the third time in four years, the Golden State Warriors sit atop the NBA throne after repeating as champions.

There was no need to head back to the Bay Area to close out the NBA Finals this time as Golden State completed a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 108-85 win in Game 4 on Friday.

The Warriors exerted their dominance from start to finish in a performance that left no reason for doubt. While they’ve often slipped into a lackadaisical malaise during their past two title runs, Game 4 showed their urgency and how much they weren’t willing to mess around.

Cleveland were the more desperate team coming into the contest as they fought to stave off a sweep on their home floor, but it was Golden State that looked hungrier at the start and tried to deliver a knockout punch, going up 34-25 by the end of the first quarter. That set the tone for the rest of the way as the Cavaliers were constantly playing off the back foot and trying to stay within arm’s length.

Fittingly, the Warriors used one of their patented third-quarter runs – which buried opposing teams all season – to put the game out of reach as they outscored Cleveland 25-13 coming out of the intermission.

But while they hit 14 3-pointers and Stephen Curry had smoldering moments in his 37-point performance, it was Golden State’s defence which was most impressive in the clincher. Not only did they hold the Cavaliers below the century mark for the first time all series, they also limited LeBron James to just 13 shots and 23 points.

It may not have been the Warriors’ best game of the series, but they were arguably at their most focused and locked-in to steal the title.

Durant edges Curry

Unsurprisingly, the most suspenseful part of Game 4 was the neck-and-neck battle over Finals MVP between Curry and Kevin Durant.

It was the latter who ended up with the honour for the second straight year after posting a triple-double with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, compared to 37 points, six rebounds and four assists for Curry.

For the series, Durant finished with averages of 28.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.0 blocks, 52.6 per cent shooting overall and 40.9 per cent on 3s, while Curry averaged 27.5 points, 6.8 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 40.2 per cent shooting and 41.5 per cent from deep.

From a pure statistical standpoint, there’s no doubt Durant deserved the award, but Curry was arguably better in three of the four games. Game 3, however, was such an iconic performance by Durant – capped by an iconic shot – that it likely carried greater weight.

Finals MVP continues to elude Curry as the lone major award missing from his resume, but with how the Warriors are set up for even more sustained success, he’ll have more opportunities to add to his trophy cabinet.

And with how unselfish the culture appears to be in Golden State’s locker room, it may not matter all that much to Curry anyways.

LeBron’s last stand

An unpredictable summer is on the way, but we may have seen LeBron’s final game in a Cavaliers uniform.

If that was indeed the final time James walked off the Quicken Loans Arena court as a member of the home team, it was a disappointing end to his tenure in Cleveland.

No one could have reasonably expected LeBron and the Cavaliers to win the series against a much more talented team, but avoiding a sweep was a reasonable goal. Instead, the gap between the teams was abundantly clear and that may weigh on James’ mind when he sits back this summer and surveys the landscape before making a decision on his future.

What’s evident in this moment is that Cleveland, as currently constructed, are nowhere near the level of Golden State. And if James’ sole purpose is to compete for championships, staying with the Cavaliers doesn’t look like his best bet to do that.

A lot can change, however, and much will in the coming weeks. But as the dust settled after the final minutes of the NBA season, it was hard to ignore the feeling of finality around LeBron.

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Player grades as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Golden State Warriors repeat as champions

Jay Asser 9/06/2018
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Stephen Curry had 37 points in the clincher.

The Golden State Warriors are back-to-back champions as they claimed their third title in four years with a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Stephen Curry had 37 points while Finals MVP Kevin Durant recorded a triple-double, but the Warriors’ defence was just as impressive as they locked down LeBron James and Co in 108-85 win in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

Here are our the player grades for both teams.

Cleveland Cavaliers

George Hill – Had a terrible series and finished it with another poor performance in which he was a complete non-factor. D

J.R. Smith – Did his part by hitting three triples and being an engaged defender, but also picked up a silly technical foul. B-

LeBron James – Uncharacteristically played his worst game of the series facing elimination and displayed zero confidence in his jump shot. C

Kevin Love – Thirteen points on 13 shots is simply not good enough for the Cavaliers’ number two offensive option. C-

Tristan Thompson – Converted a few shots in the paint but only saw the floor for 16 minutes as Cleveland prioritised offence. B

Rodney Hood – Carried over his play from the previous game to again give good minutes off the bench before it became a blowout. B+

Jeff Green – Too many Cleveland possessions ended on Green isolations or post-ups, which unsurprisingly didn’t work out. C-

Larry Nance Jr – Even when the game was getting out of hand, Nance was bringing his usual energy and scrapping. B+

Kyle Korver – Shot 0-of-6 from the field as he was neutralised again to cap off a rough series for him. D

LeBron

Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry – Splashed seven bombs from deep for 37 points and also played well on defence, coming up with three blocks and three steals. A

Klay Thompson – Got into foul trouble before the end of the first half and finished with a modest 10 points on 10 shots. B-

Kevin Durant – Wasn’t nearly as efficient scoring the ball as the past two games, but had a triple-double with an all-around effort. A-

Draymond Green – Was his usual disruptive self on the defensive end, while chipping in nine points and nine assists. B+

JaVale McGee – Continued to give the Cavaliers problems as a roll man and rim protector whenever he was on the court. B+

Andre Iguodala – Came off the bench to shoot 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, punishing Cleveland for leaving him open on the perimeter. A-

Jordan Bell – His ability as a versatile defender who can guard inside and out was on full display in his 18 minutes. B

Shaun Livingston – Only took one shot in his 14 minutes, but made an impact defensively as a stable presence off the bench. B-

David West – Wasn’t asked to do much, yet his eight minutes were useful in that they allowed the starters to get a breather. B-

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