LeBron James put on one of the greatest Finals performances in NBA history, but in the end, it simply wasn’t enough. The Golden State Warriors used a balanced attack to take Game 6 and win their first NBA title in 40 years.
They got yet another impressive performance from eventual Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, who put up 25 points, five rebounds, five assists, and two steals. The regular-season MVP Steph Curry also had 25 points, to go along with eight assists, six rebounds, and three steals, while the heart-and-soul of this Warriors team all season long, Draymond Green, had a triple-double with 16 points, 11, rebounds, and 10 assists.
LeBron did his best to extend the series to a seventh game, with a mind-boggling 32 points, 18 rebounds, nine assists, and two steals, en route to becoming just the sixth player to reach 5,000 career playoffs points. But the Cavaliers as a whole struggled mightily from the floor, shooting just 6-of-26 from downtown and 39 percent from the field. The Cavs also committed 19 turnovers, nine of which happened in the first quarter (including three shot clock violations) as the Warriors raced out to a 13-point lead. The Warriors also had 11 assists on their first 11 baskets.
But they would soon cool off and allow the Cavs to get back in the game after starting the second quarter 4-of-17 from the floor. Cleveland got a lot of help from Timofey Mozgov, who, despite barely sniffing the floor in Game 5, had 15 points, 14 rebounds, and four huge blocks, including this rejection of an Iguodala dunk attempt.
After allowing the Cavs to pull within two by halftime, the Warriors took a 10-point lead in the third quarter behind a 16-2 run, which culminated with this beautiful dime from Curry to Iguodala for the easy jam.
And that’s when the Cavs truly started to hit the wall. By the midway mark of the third quarter, J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert were a combined 1-of-10 shooting. Smith didn’t make his first field goal until 4 minutes remaining in the third.
The Warriors, on the other hand, got meaningful contributions from Shaun Livingston and Festus Ezeli, who each added 10 points. Ezeli also had this massive tip-dunk, plus the foul.
The Cavs would go on another mini-run to start the fourth, led by this steal and breakaway dunk from LeBron to cut the lead to 75-68.
But the Cavs would let it slip away, and the Warriors once again held their largest lead of the night (15 points) with 5 minutes remaining in the fourth.
However, Smith would eventually break out of his series-long slump in the fourth quarter to pour in 19 points on 4-of-9 shooting from downtown, including a few Hail-Marys to keep the game within striking distance late in the fourth, but it was ultimately too little too late.
The Cavs, who had been relying on sheer willpower and stubborn determination for most of the series, quite simply ran out of gas and could not withstand the Warriors’ multifaceted onslaught. Regardless, their scrappy efforts made this series a lot more interesting than anyone could have predicated, given how short-handed they were in the absence of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. After all the dynasties of the past two decades, it was refreshing to see a pair of long-suffering franchises from relatively small markets battle it out for basketball supremacy.
Might the Warriors be another dynasty in the making? We’ll find out in 2015-16.