CLEVELAND – As the final seconds ticked off and the Golden State Warriors began bouncing in celebration on their bench, Stephen Curry looked up and saw LeBron James coming at him.
James could do nothing more, so he extended a conceding hand and congratulations.
Moments later, Curry was hoisting a trophy in the air – one as golden as his team.
Revived by Curry, their fresh-faced shooting superstar, and bonded by first-year coach Steve Kerr who made them believe, the Warriors ended a 40-year NBA championship drought on Tuesday night by finishing off James and the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers 105-97 in Game 6.
Curry and finals MVP Andre Iguodala scored 25 points apiece, Draymond Green recorded a triple-double and the Warriors – using a barrage of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to put Cleveland away – won their first title since 1975 when Gerald Ford was in the White House, disco was in vogue and Rick Barry was flicking in free throws under-handed.
And these Warriors are a lot like Barry and his old crew: fluid, balanced, together. Just like Kerr hoped.
“I’m kind of speechless,” Curry said. “This is special. To be able to hold this trophy and all the hard work we’ve put into it this season, this is special. We’re definitely a great team and a team that should go down in history as one of the best teams from top to bottom.”
After the Warriors were presented with the glittering Larry O’Brien Trophy by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, hundreds of gold-and-blue clad Warriors fans inside Quicken Loans Arena serenaded the new champs by singing “War-eee-ers, War-eee-ers” a cry that filled Oracle Arena all season and will greet the team on their return to California.
Golden State allowed the Cavs to creep within eight points in the fourth before unleashing a flurry of 3s to ensure there would be no Game 7. Curry’s step-back made it 78-68, and after the Cavs closed within seven on J.R. Smith’s 3, Iguodala, Curry and Klay Thompson each drained one in a span of 81 seconds to make it 89-75.
Iguodala, who had the added duty of guarding James, knocked down another long shot for good measure before he strutted back on defense holding out three fingers on each hand.
He could have shot an index finger into the air at that point – Golden State is No. 1.
While Golden State’s drought ended, Cleveland’s half-century of sports misery rolls on.
James returned from Miami last summer to deliver a title to his home region, but the 30-year-old superstar, left to do most of the work after All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were injured in the postseason, came two wins shy of giving Cleveland its first pro sports championship since 1964.
The city’s three pro teams – the Cavs, Browns and Indians – have gone a combined 144 seasons without one of them winning it all.
It’s not that James didn’t do everything possible. He finished with 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists and was dominant throughout the series, showing why he’s the world’s best player.
The Warriors were simply the better team.
The fact that Iguodala, Golden State’s sixth man, took MVP honors perhaps sums up the Warriors best.
“I always said Andre’s a pro’s pro,” said Green, who had 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. “He’s a professional guy and it showed, and that’s why he’s MVP of the series and that’s what we’re champions.”
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