The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday, 129-120, for its second championship in three seasons, avenging last season’s historic collapse.
Fast forward almost five years and Durant is no longer just a regular season MVP, a scoring champion or an All-NBA player – he’s an NBA Champion and a Finals’ MVP.
For James, already a three-times champion, the loss puts him in rare – but not ideal – company as only the fourth player to come up short in five NBA Finals.
Durant capped his first season with the Warriors in triumphant fashion with another big shooting night that helped Golden State avoid a repeat of last year’s Finals collapse when Cleveland rallied from 3-1 down to win the title.
James, who in 2012 with Miami beat the Thunder in Durant’s only other Finals, wound up with 41 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
The two teams have contested the past three finals.
To win his first National Basketball Association title, Durant had to overcome Cavaliers forward LeBron James, whose former Miami Heat team defeated Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 Finals.
Irving and James turned back-to-back steals into impressive tone-setting layups as part of a 16-3 Cleveland run for an 20-12 edge, James hitting 4-of-5 for 10 points at the start.
J.R. Smith is 5 for 5 from 3-point range for the Cavaliers, who trailed by 17 in the second quarter and 11 at halftime.
Durant, finishing his 10th pro season, made himself the favorite for the award when he scored 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3 when the Warriors closed the game on an 11-0 run.
LeBron James had a game-high 41 points but defensive breakdowns by Cleveland led to easy baskets late in the game for the Warriors, igniting a deafening crowd. Then he moved across the podium and hugged Stephen Curry before accepting his shiny MVP trophy, holding out his arms and hoisting it for everyone to see. After scoring 49 points in the first quarter of Game 4, the Cavs are out to a 22-18 lead midway through the first quarter Monday night. Without their best player, the Warriors would have had more difficulty matching up with James and Kyrie Irving.
But coach Steve Kerr, who only returned to the team in time for game two of the finals after a period of medical leave to deal with complications arising from back surgery, joked afterwards: “We have very little talent actually, it’s mostly coaching!”
The GSA have now won the NBA Championships two times in three years. “You guys were great tonight, we needed it”.