Golden State Glory: Warriors Win NBA Finals, LeBron Still Shines

Kevin Durant takes a long look at his first Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy, his first since joining the league in 2007. Ramin Rahimian for ESPN

It took five games for the Golden State Warriors to claim the NBA title. But they did it. After coming up short of a perfect playoff record, they returned to Oracle Arena and  finally got their redemption with a clinching  Game 5 victory. After failing to secure the title following a three game lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers in last year’s NBA Finals, the Warriors found their stroke Monday night in front of a fired up home crowd.

If anyone questioned or derided the acquisition of Kevin Durant in the offseason, they can humbly put their foot in their mouth now. Durant’s star shined bright in Game 5, as he scored 39 points — 11 of them in the fourth quarter, in the Warriors’ 129-120 victory over the Cavaliers.

Steph Curry added 34 points and 10 assists making up for his disappointing performance in the 2016 Finals.

The tide of the game turned in the second quarter when the Warriors erased an eight point deficit and took a double digit lead going into halftime. You could practically see the O’Brien trophy slipping from LeBron’s grasp.

And he did everything he could. Some are still wondering, despite the loss, if LeBron might have played the best series of his career. In their Game 5 loss, he posted 41 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists. One cannot dismiss the effort he put in down the stretch of this game. In 46 minutes of play, he scored a third of his team’s points.

“I left everything on the floor every game,” James said after averaging a triple-double in his eighth Finals.

Teammate Kyrie Irving added 26 points. J.R. Smith went 9-11 from the field and 7-8 from three. And Tristan Thompson contributed 15 points and 8 rebounds, going 6-8 from the field. But that’s where the fortune stopped for Cleveland. Kevin Love struggled all game long, finishing with 6 points. And the bench combined for a paltry 7.

Compare that with Golden State’s 35 bench points and it’s not hard to see why the Cavs lost this one. Among those bench points were 20 from the 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. After getting glassed by LeBron in last year’s finals, he threw down two monstrous dunks — including an alley oop in the fourth quarter.

In the end, the trophy went to Golden State — among them a joyful Kevin Durant, who finally grabbed his first championship trophy after losing to LeBron’s Miami Heat in 2012. He also garnered the Finals MVP award after averaging 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1 steal, and 1.6 blocks for the five game series.

For KD, his time has come. Considered one of the elite superstars from his early days in this league, we can finally call him a champ. More importantly, he can breathe a much needed sigh. It’s time to give him credit where credit is due.

“You can talk about whatever you want to talk about, but nobody comes in and cares about the game or loves the game as much as I do or works as hard as do I at the basketball game. You can talk about whatever happens on the outside, but inside those lines, I come to bring it every day,” Durant said. “I work hard, I believe in myself, I believe in the game, I respect the game, I love the game, and I knew at some point in my life that it will come around for me.”