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.
NBA tells me the vote on Finals MVP was 7-4, KD over Steph.— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 9, 2018
Gotta think Durant coming up with that near-perfect game to determine the series was what swayed most voters. It’s what did it for me. https://t.co/wSsCNcGyDQ
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.
LeBron and the Cavs were swept by the Spurs by a total of 24 points in 2007. They lost tonight by 23 and all 4 games by a combined 60 points. Lakers 2002 sweep over Nets was by a combined 37 points. 60 is the most of any of the 9 sweeps.— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) June 9, 2018
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.
Know more about Sport360 Application