PROGRAMMING NOTE: Coverage of the Warriors 2018 Championship Parade begins Tuesday at 9:30am on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming on NBCSportsBayArea.com.
In some ways this was the perfect way to end the Warriors’ weirdest championship run – clinically, purposefully, almost cruelly.
Their 108-85 victory over the soon-to-be-freeze-dried Cleveland Cavaliers had none of the incandescent moments typically associated with Golden State at its best, no bursts of jaw-slackening brilliance or stretches of amazement, but it showed them at their remorseless best. They stole Cleveland’s heart, held it up for a gobsmacked arena crowd and the nation as a whole to see, and in a silent arena, they crushed it with one ruthless squeeze.
They showed anyone who needed further evidence that they have no peers, or even challengers. They sent the NBA into the offseason no better off than it was a year ago, and maybe a bit worse.
And though there were numbers to behold (Stephen Curry finished with 37 points and Kevin Durant triple-doubled his way to his second consecutive Finals MVP), this 103rd game, this 74th win, was the basketball version of watching a snake eat.
The Warriors defended LeBron James into the role of a passer with nobody to pass to, and rendered Kevin Love inert as a second option. They intercepted passes, slapped the ball out of careless Cavalier hands, took care of the ball and distributed it with the sureness usually found in scrimmages.
In all, the Warriors gave Steve Kerr and themselves exactly the game he enjoys most – a suffocating beatdown that denied their most serious rival even the barest illusion of hope.
They left no doubt and destroyed all doubters. They engaged the rivalry with Cleveland, they won the rivalry, and they killed the rivalry so surely that they and they made the LeBron James Era in Cleveland mostly bittersweet.
Not that is what James should be noted for, mind you. He is far more than the results of these four series, he was brilliant even as the futility of that brilliance became evident, and he did keep his word about winning one for Ohio. But when he left the game with 4:03 to play to a sustained ovation, he made sure to congratulate all the Warriors on the floor as an acknowledgement of what they did to his homecoming.
They ended it. With a concussive thud.
This was the hardest year for the Warriors, between the injuries and the ennui, and there was a sense that they viewed this victory with a mixture of joy and relief. But that might have been simply the fact that they started celebrating well before the actual game ended, because they assembled a game so complete and unyielding that it never actually reached the level of fun most associated with this team.
This was about business, and this was delivered with a businessman’s ruthlessness. This was the Warriors telling a skeptical world they have all the ways to win the league at their command, including denial of the opponent’s right to function. This was them not apologizing for ruining the league. This was them striding across the sport as the first team of this century, truly turning the switch at will and replacing the bulbs with floodlights once the postseason began.
This may not be a dynasty in the classic sense because it still lacks the third consecutive title that the Lakers of the ‘50s and ‘Oughts, the Celtics of the ‘60s and the Bulls of the ’90s, but it feels like one, and it looks like one that still has plenty of sting in its tail.
And there is no sign anywhere that there is a team even remotely close to challenging their claim that they are still years away from completing their run. They were once charming and fun and giddy and bubbly, but they have matured as champions. They are now clearly far too good for the field in all the ways good can be measured.
|Game 1||Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)|
|Game 2||Warriors 122, Cavs 103|
|Game 3||Warriors 110, Cavs 102|
|Game 4||Warriors 108, Cavs 85|