Finals recap: The Warriors' road to the title

ByBaxter Holmes ESPN logo
Wednesday, June 17, 2015

CLEVELAND -- After a 40-year hiatus, the Golden State Warriors are champions again. The team with the NBA's best record closed out the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night at Qucken Loans Arena, winning 105-97 for their fourth title in franchise history and first since 1975.

Andre Iguodala, who hadn't started a game in the playoffs until the Finals, won series MVP after averaging 16.3 points and playing stellar defense on LeBron James.

Stephen Curry finished with 25 points, becoming just the sixth player in NBA history to win his first MVP and his first title in the same season. The last player to do so was Shaquille O'Neal in 1999-2000.

The Warriors' Steve Kerr became the first rookie head coach to win an NBA title since Pat Riley accomplished that feat in 1981-82 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

And the Warriors capped off one of the best seasons in NBA history, finishing with an 83-20 record, including the regular season and postseason. That's the third-best mark behind the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (87-13) and the 1996-97 Bulls (84-17).

After a marvelous series, James finished with 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists, just shy of his second triple-double of the series.

Here's a look back at how it all went down:

Warriors favorites from start

Pundits and bookmakers in Las Vegas alike pegged the Golden State Warriors as favorites to win their first title in 40 years entering their Finals matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Of 27 ESPN NBA writers, 22 picked the Warriors. Four of five NBA writers picked the Warriors. Seven of eight NBA writers picked the Warriors. You get the picture. The trendy pick: Warriors in six.

Game 1: Warriors 108, Cavs 100 (OT) | Photos | Box score

In Game 1 in Oakland, California, Oracle Arena lived up to its nickname "Roaracle" and the raucous crowd was treated to a tight game featuring plenty of star power. LeBron James went for 44 points on 38 shots and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 47 points. But the Cavaliers went ice cold in overtime, being outscored 10-2, and the session was even worse when they lost star guard Kyrie Irving to a fractured left kneecap that would sideline him for the rest of the series. With Irving and Kevin Love (shoulder) out, that meant James had to do it all on his own the rest of the way.

Game 2: Cavs 95, Warriors 93 (OT) | Photos | Box score

The Cavaliers were down two stars and one game in the series, so there was plenty of talk about a potential Warriors sweep. But James and Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova made sure that didn't happen. James went for a 39-point, 16-rebound, 11-assist triple-double, and Dellavedova harassed league MVP Curry into an awful night, missing 18 of 23 shots, including 2 of 15 from 3-point range. "Total-team effort," James said. The Warriors fell to 47-3 at home as the Cavaliers evened the series at one game apiece.

Game 3: Cavs 96, Warriors 91 | Photos | Box score

Back in Cleveland, James offered another mind-boggling performance -- 40 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in 46 minutes. He also got plenty of help from Dellavedova, who scored 20 points, seemingly dove for every loose ball and had to be taken to the hospital after the game to receive an IV for severe cramping. But the Warriors woke up, scoring 36 points in the fourth quarter after scoring 18 in the third, chiseling a 20-point Cavs lead to single digits. It appeared as though they had finally figured out the Cavaliers' defense, specifically how they hounded Curry at the top of the key. "I think I've found something when it comes to how I'm going to be able to attack their pick-and-rolls," Curry said. "I'll keep that in the memory bank going into Game 4."

Game 4: Warriors 103, Cavs 82 | Photos | Box score

Quicken Loans Arena was rocking, with Cavaliers fans hoping their team would take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. But the Warriors built on their success late in Game 3 and started Game 4 by going small, starting Andre Iguodala for the first time all season in place of center Andrew Bogut. Their small lineup raised questions about the future of the center position in the NBA, especially after the Warriors blew out the Cavaliers by 21 points. Toward the end of the game, the Cavaliers looked tired, especially James, who, after shouldering an enormous minutes load in previous games scored just 20 points.

Game 5: Warriors 104, Cavs 91 | Photos | Box score

The Warriors returned home, and Curry finally returned to MVP form. He made seven 3-pointers, including a few jaw-dropping shots from beyond the arc that came after some dazzling crossover dribbles against Dellavedova. Curry scored 37 points and the Warriors went small ball again as they pushed toward the brink of a title. But James wasn't to be outdone. The four-time MVP poured in 40 points, 14 assists and 11 assists, the first 40-point triple-double in decades. Again, the Cavaliers and especially James looked gassed at the end of the game, but James stole the headlines afterward when he declared, "I feel confident because I'm the best player in the world."

Game 6: Warriors 105, Cavs 97 | Photos | Box score

Facing the prospect of playing James in a Game 7 back in Oakland, the Warriors had plenty of motivation to close out the Cavaliers in Cleveland. The Warriors trailed by two in the third quarter but outscored them 28-18 in the quarter to take control of the game. They had to fend off an improbable push by the Cavs in the final minute to seal their first championship since 1975. As he checked out of the game for the final time, James congratulated Curry, who finished with 25 points but did not add Finals MVP to his season MVP haul. Iguodala was the unlikely Finals MVP, a 100-1 shot at the outset of the series by online sports book Bovada.

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