NBA Finals: G5 - Warriors Prove They Are "Light Years Ahead"
Back when Joe Lacob told reporters the Warriors were “light years ahead” of the rest of the NBA, the league was shocked. When the Warriors blew a 3-1 NBA Finals lead just over a month later, Lacob’s quote became a running joke around the league.
A year later, Lacob is the one who is laughing.
The Golden State Warriors were crowned NBA champions Monday night at Oracle Arena with a 129-120 victory and set an all-time record with their 16-1 playoff record, giving them a strong argument as the best team of all-time.
Finals MVP Kevin Durant scored 39 on a dazzling 14-20 shooting and Steph Curry racked up 34 points and 10 assists as the Warriors redeemed their loss to Cleveland in last year’s Finals. Durant controversially left Oklahoma City to join the Warriors prior to this season and was chastised throughout the year. He was called a softy, a cheater and even a “cupcake” by fans and jealous foes. Now, he can let his championship ring do the talking.
Cleveland actually led this one in field goal percentage, out-shooting Golden State 53.4 percent to 51.1, but the Warriors made 8 more free throws, which made all the difference in a nine-point win. The Cavaliers' starters had yet another excellent showing, but their bench was outscored by an incredible 35-7 margin, spearheaded by 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala’s 20 points and hustle on defense.
LeBron James proved once again that he plays his best when facing elimination, dropping 41 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists all while becoming the first player in history to average a triple-double during the Finals.
James had his fair share of help as Kyrie Irving scored 26, J.R. Smith shot a ridiculous 7-8 from distance and Tristan Thompson bullied his way down low for some clutch second-chance points. Alas, the Cavs just could not stop the Warriors offense all series long.
When James drove into the lane and finished an easy layup to put the Cavs up 41-33 early in the second quarter, it seemed like this one might slip away from the Warriors. Not so fast. Golden State responded promptly with a 27-4 run, highlighted by a barrage of explosive dunks that sucked the life out of Cleveland just before halftime.
After missing Game 5 last year due to a technical against James, Draymond Green redeemed himself in this year's Game 5 win with a double-double and some of the best (slightly illegal) screens you’ll ever see. Another big key to this game was the increased frequency of Curry-Durant pick and rolls. Cleveland would consistently switch smaller defenders onto Durant, who would then get the ball up top, clear one side of the floor and dominate smaller players in isolation.
Durant also proved time and time again throughout this series that he is the real leader of this Warriors team. Though Curry may always be the fan-favorite, Durant became the go-to-guy in this series when it meant the most. He delivered over and over, nailing shots over outstretched arms and getting to the rim at will.
After securing their second championship in Steve Kerr’s first three seasons at the helm, Golden State is on the precipice of becoming a dynasty. Their switch-everything defense and bombs away mentality on offense has infected the NBA and left every team searching for answers about how to field a squad that can compete with the Warriors, let alone overcome them. In fact, over the course of these playoffs, the Dubs proved just how dominant they can be and it may change how other NBA teams build going forward.
No team in the NBA has a clear path to knocking the Warriors off their pedestal – not even Cleveland. The sane strategy by most franchises may be just to wait out this dynastic run and shift their efforts toward building for tomorrow.
Only time will tell, but for now, the 2017 Warriors have truly proven that they really are “light years ahead” of the rest of the NBA.