N.B.A. Finals 2018 Live: Warriors Sweep Cavs for Third Title in Four Years
The Golden State Warriors were not perfect. They lost 24 games during the regular season. Rather than chase records, they endured injuries and bouts of complacency. Their path to the N.B.A. finals was more Appalachian Trail than autobahn. It took work, which might sound a little ridiculous given their lavish roster.
But hours before his team’s latest coronation was complete, Coach Steve Kerr reflected on the finals in 2015, back when the run started, back when it was fresh and new.
“It just seemed chaotic,” he said. “Everything seemed so up and down. Now, it seems more businesslike. We’re more poised.”
Only the result was the same. For the third time in four seasons, and for the second year in a row, the Warriors are N.B.A. champions. They demolished the Cleveland Cavaliers, 108-85, on Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena to complete a four-game sweep, thwarting every challenge that LeBron James — their most familiar, most gifted adversary — could muster.
Stephen Curry led Golden State with 37 points, and Kevin Durant added a triple-double: 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Durant was named M.V.P. of the finals for the second consecutive year.
The Warriors, as they are known to do, found separation in the third quarter. Klay Thompson made a 3-pointer to push the lead to 17, and a sense of doom settled over the building. There were even some boos. The fourth quarter featured a muted celebration on the visiting bench.
The Cavaliers emptied their bench with just over 4 minutes left. James fist-bumped several of the Warriors as he checked out of the game to a standing ovation.
James finished with 23 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds in what could have been his final game with the Cavaliers. He can become a free agent this summer, and his future is uncertain.
The Warriors were seriously challenged only once in the postseason — by the Houston Rockets, who took the Western Conference finals to their seven-game limit. The Rockets, who had the league’s best record, even had home-court advantage for the final game of the series. But Chris Paul, their point guard, was sidelined with an injury, and the Warriors advanced.
On Friday, the Warriors showcased their firepower early and often. In the first quarter, three of their players made 3-pointers in a span of 43 seconds. The Cavaliers were never going to match that sort of versatility.
The Warriors’ All-Star collective has reshaped the league. Teams vying for championships need multiple stars. Not even a generational talent like James, operating at the peak of his powers, can do it alone. On Thursday, before the series was even over, James sat at a dais and spoke plainly about the gulf that separated the two teams in the finals.
“Obviously,” he said, “from a talent perspective, if you’re looking at Golden State from their top five best players to our top five players, you would say they’re stacked better than us.”
It was an obvious point — who would disagree? — but a candid one given that the Cavaliers were still alive. The odds of James’s engineering a comeback, of course, were long. No team in N.B.A. postseason history had ever overcome a 3-0 series deficit.
At that same news conference, James dwelled on everything that the Cavaliers had been through in the past year: off-season trades, midseason trades, a roster in near-constant flux. Cleveland needed two seven-game series just to reach the finals.
“This,” James said, “has been one of the most challenging seasons of my career.”
It was appropriate that he had to face the Warriors at the very end, doing so for the fourth straight season. But this series had a different feel to it, which had a lot to do with one player who was absent: Kyrie Irving, the All-Star point guard whom the Cavaliers shipped to the Boston Celtics last summer after he demanded a trade. Irving had played a huge role for the Cavaliers in 2015-16, when they stunned the Warriors to win the franchise’s only championship.