On Monday, Durant was at his long-limbed best, doing his part to snuff every rally that the Cavaliers could muster. He scored 39 points and was named the series’ most valuable player. With about 55 seconds left, Durant could sense that he was getting lost in the moment.
“Is this really happening?” he recalled asking himself.
Stephen Curry had 34 points and 10 assists in the win. The Warriors also got a huge game from Andre Iguodala, who scored 20 points off the bench in addition to defending James for long stretches.
James delivered the Full LeBron: 41 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists, a typical postseason effort for him. Irving scored 26 points, and J. R. Smith added 25.
“I have no reason to look back at what I could have done or what I should have done or what I could have done better for the team,” said James, who averaged a triple-double during the series — 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. “I left everything I had out on the floor every single game for five games in these finals, and you come up short.”
The teams were coming off two tightly contested games in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers had salvaged some hope. On Monday, the Warriors took an 11-point lead into the second half. After the Cavaliers cut it to 4 late in the third quarter, Durant connected on a 3-pointer, and the crowd seemed to exhale.
The Warriors maintained their cushion in the fourth. After the Cavaliers’ Kyle Korver made a 3-pointer, Durant got inside for a dunk. Curry followed that by whipping a pass to Iguodala for another slam, and the Warriors were up by 10. Inside the building, cautious optimism gave way to full-blown jubilation as the final minutes ticked away.
“Winning a championship is so hard,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said. “And when you do it, you just get nine months of all this work and you can finally let loose.”
This was the third straight finals meeting between the Warriors and the Cavaliers. After Golden State won in 2015, Cleveland put together an unprecedented comeback to take the championship last season. That series, which went a full seven games, was packed with drama and ended with James leading the Cavaliers to their first title in franchise history.
It was a deflating end for the Warriors, who had set a record by winning 73 games in the regular season. But they regrouped last summer by luring Durant away from the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency. Kerr and his All-Star cast met with Durant in the Hamptons on Long Island and sold him on a delicious future: the chance to win multiple titles, to be a key cog on a forever team.
The addition of Durant was not universally celebrated. Durant was accused by some of pursuing the easiest path to a championship. The Warriors, too, were criticized for somehow becoming too good, for creating a parity problem — as if they should have passed on the chance to sign Durant out of concern for the good of the league.
It was a curious argument — teams generally do whatever they can to win — and the Warriors, with Durant in the mix, treated their regular-season opponents like roadkill.
They stuck to that script through the first three rounds of the playoffs. The Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers, the Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs. If the Warriors got some breaks — Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs’ best player, missed the last three games of the Western Conference finals with a sprained ankle — they dealt with adversity, too.