By: Florian Gheorghe
At the end of the day (or the series for that matter), having the best player in the world wasn’t enough.
“I’m the best player in the world,” LeBron James said after Game 5. “We’ve got enough to win (the championship). I feel confident.”
On the other hand, having a team was all that really matter.
In spite of all his confidence and undeniable basketball greatness, James couldn’t stop the Golden State Warriors single-handedly. He put up some unbelievable across the board – 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game, becoming the first player in NBA Finals history to lead both teams in all three categories – yet the Cleveland Cavalierslost the championship against the best team in the world.
After a tough start and a 2-1 hole, the Warriors bounced back and won three consecutive games including the last one, in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday night. This particular game sealed the series and the season in favor of the Golden City of Oakland, California. It’s their first NBA championship after a drought the lasted 40 years.
“It’s raining out there,”coach Steve Kerr started the press conference with a big smile on his face and all wet. Of course, he was referring to the champagne that was constantly pouring down in the Warriors locker room.
“We were very fortunate this year. Number one: our health. Winning is about a lot of work but also about luck,”he continued.
Surely, the Warriors have been lucky playing against several teams that have been undermanned in the playoffs but that was only a part of a story. And Kerr knows it: “What really wins it all is a combination of great offense and great defense.”
Indeed, Golden State was the perfect combination of those two facets of the game throughout the whole year. In the regular season, the team finished second in offensive rating (109.7 points per 100 possessions) and first in defensive rating (98.2). That didn’t change in the post-season and the Finals holding Cavs to only 38% from the field and under 30% from the Great Beyond. But what mattered most in the Finals was the Warriors’ depth that Cleveland couldn’t match at any point this series.Whether it was Leandro Barbosa, Shaun Livingston or Festus Ezeli, the Warriors bench delivered… and more. It also launched Andre Iguodala to center stage where he shone as bright as LeBron. It wasn’t his numbers that stood out – “only” 16.3 points, 5.8 boards and 4 assists per game; what stood out was his effort of guarding James – “the hardest job in basketball,” as Kerr explained – and his timely shots. Many times he silenced theQuicken Loans Arena crowd and raised the decibel bar to new heights in Oracle Arena. The league acknowledged his effort and as a result, he won the NBA Finals MVP ahead of players like James and the 2015 MVP Stephen Curry.
“He sacrificed his starting role to make Harrison (Barnes) better, to make the bench better and he set the tone for the season. It is fitting for him to win the MVP,” Golden State coach said.
Humble as always, Andre looked down at the stats sheet and tried to describe his role in these Finals: “No turnovers, good job.”
An unlikely hero, yet a defining one for a selfless team that can finally celebrate after a 40-year wait.