Every NBA playoff series is its own unique organism. It lives and breathes, and from that life comes growth. Winning, then, isn’t as simple as taking four games in seven tries. It’s a steady course of acclimation to a context that can’t help but shift. The Warriors were crowned the NBA champions on Tuesday because they were more flexible than the Cavaliers. They changed their lineup. They exaggerated their stylistic advantages. They helped to create an end to the series entirely different from its beginning. In the end, Golden State won Game 6 105–97, and its first NBA championship in 40 years, by playing Warriors basketball.
The thought of Stephen Curry struggling to create separation from Matthew Dellavedova feels like a distant memory. Curry built traction in every successive game of this series. His shots didn’t always fall, but he had meaningful improvement from game to game in the attempts he was creating. By Game 6, he had the rhythm of Cleveland’s pick-and-roll defense down pat. He attacked off the dribble in ways that pulled the Cavs’ coverage apart, using smart footwork and timing to sneak passes by the long arms of Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson.
It was because of Curry that so many of the Warriors’ possessions rolled downhill. By making the right read off the dribble time and again, Curry (25 points, eight assists) brought two defenders out of the play and enabled his teammates to work from a position of advantage. The Draymond Green we saw in the first two games might not have been ready to maximize that opportunity. In the finale, he posted a triple double with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Green was perhaps overly assertive on a few of his drives into the teeth of the defense (some of which were snubbed out by Mozgov), but gone completely was the gun-shy roadblock of the series’ first half. This was Green as we came to know him in the regular season: One of the best at his position when it comes to the delicate balance of drive and kick.
Golden State was aided by the fact that LeBron James, consistently the best player in the series, showed real signs of fatigue. In Game 1, James bludgeoned the Warriors from the left block as if every set in the Cavs’ playbook came to that specific end. For crucial stretches of Game 6, it seemed that James just didn’t have it in him. Playing six long games of creating damn near every shot, bulk rebounding, and playing strong help defense while averaging 46 minutes per game will take its toll. The thought of grinding out yet another possession against Finals MVP Andre Iguodala pushed James to facilitate when his team desperately needed points. James gave his team everything, down to all 32 points, 18 rebounds, and nine assists he mustered in Game 6. That his performance wasn’t enough was a reflection only of his mortal limits in the face of impossible responsibility.
Cleveland will be back and better once its stars are healthy and its role players are allowed to be role players. What the Cavs had in store was already enough for a lively, surprising start to the series. It just wasn’t any match for what the Warriors eventually became: a heightened version of the well-spaced, highly flexible team that made this NBA season its own.
Golden State Warriors Win The NBA Title
The Golden State Warriors won Game 6 of the NBA Finals 105-97 over the Cleveland Cavaliers to clinch the franchise's first NBA title since 1975.
The Warriors are the third straight one-seed to win the title, following in footsteps of the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 and the Miami Heat in 2013.
Golden State trailed by two points early in the third quarter but quieted the crowd in Cleveland, which has seen the city's three pro teams go a combined 144 seasons without one of them winning a championship.
James was replaced in the final seconds, but before he left the court, the four-time MVP shook hands with Steph Curry and offered congratulations to coach Steve Kerr and the rest of the Warriors. (Text credit: AP)
Andre Iguodala was named Finals MVP and celebrates here with regular season MVP Steph Curry.
Inserted into the Warriors starting lineup for the first time all season in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Andre Iguodala proved his worth by helping lead Golden State to three consecutive wins and the title. He scored 25 in Game 6.
Draymond Green, pictured here holding down Timofey Mozgov, enjoyed a triple double in Game 6 -- 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Steph Curry goes to the left hand to score two of his 25 points.
LeBron James had 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in the losing effort.
Klay Thompson scored five points for Golden State before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Steph Curry and the Warriors outscored the Cavaliers 28-18 in the third quarter, quieting a rocking Cleveland crowd in the process. (Text credit: AP)
Cleveland outrebounded Golden State 56-39 in Tuesday's game.
Steph Curry made only three of his 11 three-point attempts and hit eight of 19 overall.
Tristan Thompson throws down two of his 15 points.
Draymond Green muscles up over LeBron James, who has now lost in four NBA Finals.
LeBron James returned to Ohio this season to try to end Cleveland's title drought but didn't have a strong enough supporting cast after season-ending injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
Steph Curry, the Warriors' first MVP since Wilt Chamberlain, hustled from start to finish in Game 6.