Golden State Warriors claim NBA title
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It's taken 40 years but the Golden State Warriors have won the NBA championships. The franchise based in Oakland, California, claimed game six 105-97 against the Cleveland Cavaliers to take a 4-2 lead in the best of seven series.
Warriors' Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala both scored 25 points in the victory.
With a first-year coach in Steve Kerr, the Warriors could be on the cusp of a glittering era.
Kerr, 49, won three titles as a guard with the Chicago Bulls and two more with San Antonio Spurs. He said his idea to install a faster-paced attack to balance a defensive side seemed a good idea.
"We felt like it would work but I would be lying to you if I told you I felt like we were going to win the NBA title," Kerr said.
The Warriors went an NBA-best 67-15 over the season, with the top scoring and defensive statistics as well as the best league shooting accuracy.
Kerr told the NBA website after the decisive victory in Cleveland on Tuesday night that it had been tough on the sidelines. "The joy and the relief is the same but as a coach you never take a shot, you never get a rebound, you never do anything on the court, but you feel responsible for everything," he said.
"You want people to do well. You want people to succeed and when it happens and you see all these joyous faces, it's an incredible feeling of satisfaction knowing that you at least played a part in it. You didn't do anything on the court but you had to do a lot off the court to get the right atmosphere. I'm happy for a lot of people."
Kerr's pedigree as a five time winner certainly helped him command respect from a group, none of whom had been to an NBA finals. But getting the players to believe in his formula had its difficulties.
Eyebrows were raised at various times during the regular season with the continued absence from the starting team of the veteran. Kerr's coup was to introduce him as a starter in game 4 when the Warriors trailed the series 2-1. Iguodala was detailed to defend LeBron James but not only did he do that but he also delivered plenty of his own offensive muscle.
"He has won five of these," said Curry pointing to the coveted Larry O'Brien championship trophy. "So you have got to trust a guy who has been here before and his view for our team. We found a recipe for success and that's the most important thing for us.
"Now that we have this under our belt I think we can appreciate what we were able to do this year," added Curry. "It's hard to understand in the moment what 67 wins means in the grand scheme of the history of the NBA, how hard that is."
It will take a heroic effort to beat the Warriors' achievements post-season. They set an NBA finals record with 67 3-pointers, breaking the mark of 64 notched by the Miami Heat in 2013. The Warriors also had the most in any NBA playoff run with 240.
Curry, 27, averaged 26.0 points in the finals and he scored 25 3-pointers in the finals. His tally of 98 play-off 3-pointers this year set a record, 40 more than Reggie Miller's old mark from 2000.
"Everybody wanted to talk about the number of threes we took," Kerr said. "We were the number one defensive team in the league and that's what wins."
Iguodala, 31, who won the accolade of finals MVP, said that the hunger within the team had compensated for the lack of big game experience.
"We have a lot of different personalities. But the common denominator is guys wanted to show what they can do individually and then we really believed in our team as a group and what we could do.
"When you get all those guys together and say we're going to do it together as a team, that's an awesome formula for what we put together and that is a championship."
For the Cavaliers' star player LeBron James, there was no fairy-tale ending for his first season back at his home state team after four seasons with the Miami Heat.
"For me it's never a success if you end losing. But we've put this franchise needs to be and that's being a contender. But we've still got a lot of work to do."
James, who has now won two and lost four NBA finals, said the injuries to Anderson Varejao, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, had deprived the team of play makers who could shoulder the point scoring burden.
“I don’t enjoy being as non-efficient as I was," said James. "I don’t enjoy dribbling the ball for countless seconds on the shot clock with the team looking at me to make a play.
"Losing, Anderson, Kyrie and Kevin - that's a lot of talent sitting in suits. I've had a lot of play-off runs and I've been on both ends and I know one thing - what you've got to have during a play-off run is that you've got to be healthy. You have got to be playing great at the right time and you've got to have a little luck. And we were playing great but we had no luck and we weren't healthy. It just wasn't our time."