The Golden State Warriors exorcised the demons of their blown 3-1 lead last season and reclaimed their place atop the NBA summit Monday night with a 129-120 Game 5 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena.
Kevin Durant, who was named Finals MVP, led the way with a Finals career-high 39 points (14-of-20 shooting) seven rebounds and five assists as the Warriors hoisted their second Larry O'Brien Trophy in three years.
According to Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Info), Durant became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal in the 2000 NBA Finals with five straight 30-point games in a championship setting.
ESPN.com's Royce Young noted Durant looked right at home in his first Finals with the Warriors:
Stephen Curry joined Durant as the Warriors' other primary spark plug.
Following an uncharacteristically sluggish Game 4 that saw him sputter to 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting (2-of-9 from three), Curry rebounded by stuffing the stat sheet with 34 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.
Not to be overlooked was Andre Iguodala, who dropped a 2017 playoff-high 20 points (9-of-14 shooting, 2-of-7 from three) in a showing that conjured up memories of his MVP-caliber performance in 2015, per ESPN.com's J.A. Adande:
Led by Iguodala, Warriors reserves outscored Cavaliers subs 35-7.
LeBron James (41 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists) and Kyrie Irving (26 points, six assists) did their best to counter the Warriors' offensive blitz, but an off night from Kevin Love—who was limited to six points and was minus-21 in 29 minutes—and shaky bench showing prevented Cleveland from landing a late haymaker.
However, the Cavaliers—who shot a robust 53.4 percent from the field—weren't always pressing.
In fact, they looked like the aggressors early as Golden State battled turnover problems and lethargy.
Although the Warriors trailed 41-33 with 10:14 remaining in the second, they steadily chipped away at that deficit and eventually took a 45-43 lead midway through the frame.
At that point, momentum was trending entirely in the Dubs' direction. A 16-2 spurt helped propel Golden State in front by as many as 17, and Curry's and-1 floater punctuated the tide-turning run:
The Cavaliers, though, remained resilient in the face of a gut-punch. Trailing by 11 at the half, Cleveland responded by winning the third quarter 33-27 to trim the Warriors' lead to five.
That edge was as few as three just seconds into the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers were never able to slingshot their way in front.
Durant was simply too much with legacy-boosting hardware hanging in the balance, and his cold-blooded shooting stroke prevented the Cavaliers from forcing a nervy Game 6.
Now back on top of the basketball world, it's fair to wonder if the Warriors' dynastic run is just beginning.