Celtics

Warriors sweep Cavs for second straight title

Warriors sweep Cavs for second straight title

CLEVELAND --There were still a few seconds left on the clock when the Golden State Warriors stormed off their bench to begin a celebration that wasn't guaranteed.

They couldn't wait any longer.

They had reached their destination: dynasty.

Stephen Curry scored 37 points, Kevin Durant added a triple-double and another NBA Finals MVP trophy and the Warriors won their second straight title and third in four years Friday night, 108-85 over the Cleveland Cavaliers to complete a sweep and perhaps drive LeBron James from his home again to chase championships.

Love `em or hate `em, there is no denying them.

"That's how you know we're a great team, is when everybody's coming after us," Durant said. "Whether it's opponents, whether it's different coaches panning for us, whether it's the fans, the media that hate us, it feels good when you're the team that everybody's gunning for. It makes us better."

No team is better.

Golden State. Golden standard.

Overcoming obstacles all season long, the Warriors won their fourth straight finals matchup against James and Cleveland with ease.

"Looking at this playoff journey, we knew it wasn't going to be as easy as last year," Curry said. "Then the challenges that faced us. In October we wanted to be back in this moment, and a lot went into it. It's a great feeling to be back here."

It was the first sweep in the NBA Finals since 2007, when James was dismissed by a powerful San Antonio team in his first one. His eighth straight appearance didn't go well either, and now there's uncertainty where the superstar will play next.

James, who said he "pretty much played the last three games with a broken hand" after injuring himself in frustration following Game 1, finished with 23 points and spent the final minutes on the bench, contemplating what went wrong and maybe his next move.

Following the game, he sat quietly in his corner locker with a towel draped over his head. He arrived at his postgame news conference with a large black brace on his right hand and explained the injury was "self-inflicted" following an overtime loss in Game 1, which included a reversed official's call and teammate J.R. Smith dribbling out the clock to end regulation.

"I had emotions of you just don't get an opportunity like this on the road versus Golden State to be able to get a Game 1, and I let the emotions get the best of me," James said. "Pretty much played the last three games with a broken hand, so that's what it is."

Act IV between the Warriors and Cavs featured a drama-filled Game 1. But from there on, Durant, Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green and the rest of this California crew showed why they're the game's gold standard.

And they may stay that way.

Not wanting to give the Cavs or their fans any hope despite the fact that no team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in the NBA playoffs, the Warriors built a nine-point halftime lead when Curry ignored a closeout by James and dropped a 3-pointer.

Then the league's best team tightened the screws on Cleveland in the third quarter, outscoring the Cavs 25-13 and prompting Golden State fans to begin those drawn-out "War-eee-orrss" chants that provide a perfect musical accompaniment to their 3-point barrages.

By the start of the fourth, the only question was whether Curry would win his first NBA Finals MVP or if it would go to Durant for the second year in a row.

And again, it was Durant, who added 12 rebounds and 10 assists - more satisfaction and validation for a player who couldn't beat the Warriors so he joined them.

After surviving a rougher-than-usual regular season and beating top-seeded Houston in Game 7 on the road in the West finals, the Warriors pushed aside James and joined an elite group of teams to win multiple championships in a four-year span.

Only Bill Russell's Boston Celtics, the "Showtime" Lakers and the Los Angeles squad led by Kobe and Shaq, and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls have been as dominant in such a short period of time.

The Dub Dynasty.

The path to this title was more precarious than the first two for coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors, who overcame injuries, expectations, a built-to-dethrone-them Rockets team and the brilliance of James, who may have played his final game in Cleveland.

The 33-year-old, who came back to the Cavs and ended the city's 52-year championship drought in 2016, is expected to opt out of his $35.6 million contract and become a free agent.

"I have no idea at this point," he said when asked if he played his final game for the Cavs. "The one thing that I've always done is considered, obviously, my family. So sitting down and considering everything, my family is a huge part of whatever I'll decide to do in my career, and it will continue to be that."

James averaged 34 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10 assists in the series, but as has been the case in the past, he didn't have enough help.

Another Summer of LeBron is officially underway and there are already teams stretching from Philadelphia to Los Angeles hoping to land the three-time champion, who may have to go elsewhere to put together a cast strong enough - and as James made clear this week, smart enough - to bring down the Warriors.

Right now, Golden State is on another tier and with Durant expected to re-sign with them in weeks and Curry, Thompson, Green and the rest still young and hungry, their reign could last much longer.

"We've got a lot of three-time, two-time champs in there, and we'll have plenty of time in our lives to discuss that later," Curry said. "So want to keep this thing going as long as we can."

TIP-INS

Warriors: Curry made a 3-pointer in his record 90th consecutive postseason game and extended his mark for 3s in road playoff games to 44. . Became the ninth team to sweep the finals. ... Won a road game in 19 straight playoff series, tying the Heat's NBA record.

Cavaliers: James scored 748 points in the playoffs, the second most in a postseason behind Jordan, who scored 759 in 1992. Appeared in their 26th NBA Finals game, moving past Atlanta/St. Louis into 10th place all-time. ... James averaged 34 points in his 13th postseason, his second-highest total.

LUE BACK

James' future isn't the only one in question. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, who took a medical leave this season while battling anxiety, said he intends to return.

"I had some tough problems going on throughout the course of the season, and I probably could have folded myself, but I wasn't going to do that," he said. "I knew that even if I wasn't feeling a hundred percent, I had to get back for the playoffs. That's my time. That's my moment. I had to fight through it. That's what champions do. I gave everything I had."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics learn something while caught in the crunch

Celtics learn something while caught in the crunch

The Boston Celtics really should not have needed overtime to edge a shorthanded Orlando Magic team in a rather meaningless seeding game on Sunday night. But the fact that Boston had to scrap its way to a very ugly win wasn’t such a bad thing.

Because of Kemba Walker’s minute restrictions, the team’s preferred starting five — Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Daniel Theis — hadn't gained much crunch-time experience together inside the bubble. But in need of a rally, Celtics coach Brad Stevens went with his first 5 for the last five minutes of regulation and was rewarded with a feverish final-minute rally that helped Boston escape with a 122-119 triumph.

The key sequence came with 38 seconds left, and Boston still down 5, when, after Brown missed a 3-pointer, a crashing Walker leaped between two white jerseys and deflected the ball back out to Tatum for a second-chance triple.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

A Daniel Theis block at the other end set up Tatum’s baseline spin move in which he shook fellow 2017 first-round pick Markelle Fultz and tied the game with 3.8 seconds to play. And, as if he hadn’t done enough in crunch time, Tatum blocked Terrence Ross’ last-gasp 3-point attempt to ensure an extra session.

"You’d never want to script it that way but it wasn’t at all bad to be down 5 [late in regulation] just to have to find a way in that moment, have to get stops, have to put our defense in a situation where we had to get a stop to go to overtime, had to get a bucket right before that,” said Stevens.

"It’s not all bad but there’s a lot that led up to that that we didn’t like as well that we’ll go back and look at to make sure we’re better.”

Boston’s starters, who played just 188 minutes together in 17 games before the season paused, have now logged 63 minutes together in Orlando. They’ve actually performed even better than the regular season with their net rating jumping from plus-12.5 to plus-13.1.

While the offense hasn’t been as crisp, Boston’s first-unit defense has been elite while limiting opponents to 94.6 points per 100 possession inside the bubble.

With Walker at his minutes limit after the fourth quarter, Stevens wasn’t able to trot that starter group out for even more time in the extra session. Instead, he simply swapped in Marcus Smart and the Celtics stiff-armed the Magic late to emerge with the victory.

From Walker making the hustle play to give his team a shot late, to Tatum thriving in the late-game spotlight, there’s a lot Boston can take into the postseason.

Boston’s playoff spot is already locked up with the team ensured the No. 3 seed. The Celtics’ final three seeding games, including Sunday’s dance with the Magic, are largely perfunctory. But Stevens stressed the importance of conditioning given that the playoffs won’t start for eight more days, and the situational work Sunday could aid this team when things are invariably tense in the postseason.

Hayward (31 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block) turned in his best game of the bubble (and maybe in a Celtics uniform); Robert Williams continues to look like someone Stevens can lean on in small doses of minutes; Tatum and Brown had really good moments at various points Sunday; and the team overcame a rare Walker dud to find a way to win (Walker more than redeeming himself with the late-game tip-out to Tatum).

The Celtics probably wouldn’t have plucked much from a breezy, lopsided win. Having to tough out a victory, even if it was avoidable, might have maximized the value of Sunday’s tilt.

Boston must wait to see who emerges as the sixth seed in the East. Philadelphia was at nearly 55 percent to finish 6th, based on projections from ESPN’s Basketball Power Index entering Sunday’s action. And that probability will almost certainly jump up a bit because it was before the Sixers’ lost to Portland.

Right now Boston’s focus has to simply be on keeping everyone healthy and restoring the starters' confidence before the playoffs arrive. The starting 5 finally got some crunch-time tests. Hey, better late than never.

And Sunday’s finish couldn’t have been better for Boston.

Celtics' Jaylen Brown shares thoughtful messages about police brutality, mental health

Celtics' Jaylen Brown shares thoughtful messages about police brutality, mental health

Jaylen Brown continues to use his platform to share inspiring and thoughtful messages about important issues beyond just basketball.

Following the Boston Celtics' win over the Orlando Magic on Sunday, Brown took time during his postgame press conference to discuss the ongoing social injustices in the country as well as the issue of mental health.

After mentioning the tragic, senseless deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers, Brown explained his position on the issue.

"I'm aware that some Americans have the birthright and the privilege to see police officers as protectors or maybe even peacekeepers, or even embrace heroism," Brown said. "Unfortunately, I'm not from that side of America. I'm from the other side where people are in fear or in terror of the police where you can be killed in your own backyard by reaching for your wallet. Your parents have to teach you certain behaviors because they're in fear that if you run into the police, you might not come home.

"And I'm aware that without being drafted by the Celtics, without being in the place I am now, that I would still be on that other side of America. So I want to take a look at the term 'police brutality' and maybe offer another term as 'domestic terrorism.' Because that's what it was in the eyes of George Floyd, and that's what it was in the eyes of Trayvon Martin, and that's what it is in the eyes of a lot of people in color in minority communities. I'll be posting an article on my social for guys to learn and tune in more, but thank you guys for listening."

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Brown then shifted to a discussion about mental health, which was equally inspiring and even had some comic relief as he took a jab at Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell in the process.

"I also want to bring attention to mental health, and awareness. Being here in this bubble, I guess people might not speak on it but it is a challenge to a lot of guys," Brown said. "It's like you're at work all the time. Like, a lot of time a lot of guys when they get done playing basketball, they want to be able to leave and forget about basketball for a little bit. It's impossible here in the bubble. You go out and chill, you might see Donovan Mitchell sitting there and you're like, 'Man I don't want to see him right now.' But it kind of is what it is.

"I definitely want to bring awareness to mental health, anxiety, and forms of depression in times like this and places like this in the bubble. Our athletes probably struggle with that and don't feel confident enough to speak openly about it. So being able to talk to somebody, being able to find ways to replace those tires is conversations that need to be had ... It's tough being away from our family and being isolated from the rest of society.

Former Celtic Kendrick Perkins came away impressed with what he heard from Brown, and it isn't difficult to see why.

You can hear the entirety of Brown's important message in the video above.