The Golden State Warriors losing the 2016 NBA title to the Cleveland Cavaliers after taking a 3-1 series lead haunted Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, coach Steve Kerr and the rest of the team from the front office down.
The decision was made that they had to do something drastic, that they wouldn’t lose again. The Warriors couldn’t take any risks trying to win another Larry O’Brien trophy. One massive extra push in the form of superstar Kevin Durant joining the ranks would no doubt get them past LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the defending champions from Ohio. That was the logic.
They were correct. The Warriors, who cruised through the post-season, only dropping a single game throughout, defeated the Cavs to reclaim the top spot in the league. Bouncing back from a Game 4 thrashing that saw Cleveland opening up the game with 49 points in the first quarter and 86 first-half points overall, both the most in NBA Finals history. If Golden State wanted to close things out, they had to overcome losing the previous game, but they really had to overcome their demons. They had to put last year out of their minds.
Game 5, however, was back on home turf. Oracle Arena was rocking before tip-off, and even though the home team still carried a 3-1 lead, enough to become champs with just one more victory, the tension was maybe never higher for a fifth game. If they let Cleveland in the back door, Golden State could be in big trouble. As the Warriors learned, James and the rest of the Cavs can make a series lead vanish if you let them.
The first two quarters were a battle, with the teams trading off leads. Things got chippy, with some shoving that led to technicals players from both teams, but Golden State pulled away on the strength of long-range shooting and ended the half up 11.
Cleveland put up a fight in the second, threatening multiple times to take over the game towards the end of the third, trailing by five going into the fourth. But in the end, the Warriors, with Durant leading the way, were just too good to hold off.
After a post-season that wet, for all intents and purposes, exactly how people figured it would go, the Warriors did have a scare on their way to closing out one of the great seasons in NBA history. And with the talk that Durant, Curry and Andre Iguodala all looking to stay in the Bay even though they each have the option to become free agents and sign lucrative deals elsewhere, it’s a forgone conclusion that Golden State is definitely the very large mountain all other teams will have to climb if they want to be the next champs. It’s hard to imagine that not being the case for the next few years to come. This second title in three years very well could be one of many more. This could very well be an all-time great basketball teams.
As for Cleveland, they still have James, they still have Irving and the free agent pool is deep. If the Warriors are the favorites, their rivals in Cleveland, the Lakers to the Celtics (or vice versa) for this generation, aren’t far behind.
But for now, the Golden State Warriors are rid of their demons. Durant finally has a ring and he won it on one of the single most dominant squads in NBA history. The future, it seems, is very bright.