By The Sports Xchange
OAKLAND, Calif. — After the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers traded championships in 2015 and 2016, they could never agree on one key thing.
Who was the better team?
The third time around, there was no doubt.
The Warriors used a 28-4 flurry in the second quarter to take a lead they never relinquished, then relied on the scoring of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry down the stretch to hold off the Cavaliers en route to a 129-120 victory Monday night, claiming their second NBA championship in seasons.
Durant, the MVP of the Finals, had 39 points, and Curry added 34 for the Warriors, who captured the best-of-seven series 4-1 against the defending champions.
“We did it together,” said Durant, a first-time champion. “Call us a super team, but it’s been a lot of super teams that hasn’t worked. We came together and we continued to just believe in each other and we sacrificed, and we’re champions now.”
Golden State completed an unprecedented 16-1 run through the NBA playoffs, registering the second-best average playoff point differential (plus-13.5) in league history.
Completing a perfect 9-0 run at home during the postseason, the Warriors became the first San Francisco Bay Area team to win a championship at home since the Oakland Athletics won the 1974 World Series.
“This is history,” Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said. “We’re going down as one of the best teams ever, and that’s a special thing you cannot take away from us.”
Led by LeBron James’ game-high 41 points, the Cavaliers hung within 108-102 with 8:29 to play on a 3-pointer by Kyle Korver.
However, Iguodala assisted a Durant dunk and added one of his own off a Curry feed, reopening a double-digit lead and making the final 7:42 an extended celebration among the Oracle Arena fans.
“Golden State (was) the best team this year,” James said. “They showcased that throughout the postseason, and we were another opponent in their way.
“We left everything on the floor, and it still wasn’t enough.”
Durant shot 14 of 20 overall and 5 of 8 on 3-pointers, hitting three of his threes during the critical second-quarter run that lasted more than seven minutes and turned a 41-33 deficit into a 61-45 advantage.
Curry shot 10 of 20, converted 12 of his 15 free throw attempts, found time for six rebounds and completed a double-double with a game-high 10 assists.
When the game became two-on-two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue observed, his team had little chance.
“They started to go with the pick-and-roll with Steph Curry and Durant, which might be one of the most unstoppable pick-and-rolls in our league,” Lue said. “And they waited until late to do it. That’s a tough play to stop.”
The Warriors, who were playing a Game 5 for the first time in the postseason, shot 51.1 percent from the field and 36.8 percent on 3-pointers.
Iguodala chipped in with 20 points off the bench and Draymond Green had a 10-point, 12-rebound double-double for the Warriors, who topped 100 points for the 17th straight time in the playoffs.
“There was never any question in my mind that this was going to work,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of the addition of Durant to a Curry-led core that already was good enough to make consecutive Finals. “This was the culmination of a year where (Durant and Curry) grew together and learned each other’s games and got better and better all year. It was phenomenal to be a part of.”
James collected a game-high 13 rebounds, eight assists and two steals to go with his 41 points in becoming the first player ever to average a triple-double in the Finals.
“I have no reason to put my head down,” said James, who finished with averages of 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists in the five-game series. “I have no reason to look back at what I could have done or what I shouldn’t have done or what I could have done better for the team. I left everything I had out on the floor every single game for five games in this Finals, and you come up short.”
Kyrie Irving, fighting through back tightness late in the game, had 26 points and J.R. Smith 25 for the Cavaliers, who, like the Warriors, were competing in their third straight Finals.
The Cavaliers shot 53.4 percent from the field and 45.8 percent on 3-pointers, but were outrebounded 42-40 and outscored 23-15 at the free-throw line.
“A lot of guys cried because they wanted it bad,” Lue reported of the postgame scene in the Cleveland locker room. “That’s all you can ask.”
NOTES: The Warriors’ .941 winning percentage in the playoffs (16-1) bettered the previous mark of .938 established by the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, who went 15-1. … The highest average point differential in NBA playoff history remains plus-14.5, set by the 1971 Milwaukee Bucks. … The championship was the 17th won by a San Francisco Bay Area franchise in baseball, basketball or football. The Warriors have three, trailing the San Francisco 49ers (five) and Oakland Athletics (four). … Cavaliers SF LeBron James played in his 217th career postseason game, moving past C Shaquille O’Neal for seventh place on the all-time list.