OAKLAND -- Whatever shock value was missing from the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA title on Monday night, after being tabbed by many as the favorite since training camps opened, and certainly after building a 3-0 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in The Finals, could do nothing to dull the celebration once potential became reality.
Coach Steve Kerr stood amid the rain of gold confetti as a unique finish line to someone who had missed 11 games these playoffs with painful and frustrating complications, beaming. Kevin Durant embraced with his mother in unvarnished joy as the final 2016-17 chapter to his decision last summer to jump from Oklahoma City to Golden State, not even attempting to play it cool. And the Warriors, as a whole, capped one of the 10 best campaigns in league history with a 129-120 victory at Oracle Arena and a 4-1 series win.
If this has been an expected outcome, there was no sign of anti-climactic. There was just a team that had adjusted to a major lineup jolt, health issues with the coach and, at the very end, the brilliance of LeBron James staring back from the other side of the court. The Warriors rightfully basked in the moment they had earned so convincingly on a night when so many more things obviously went right than wrong.
Right: Kevin Durant
Not just the 39 points on 14-for-20 shooting, including five of eight behind the arc, or the seven rebounds, or the five assists. Durant set a tone at a very high level the entire postseason and especially under the brightest lights of all in the championship series. He got heckled and worse throughout the season because of his move to Oakland. He faced more than anyone in the series, with the move at the forefront and too many people in visiting arenas rooting hard for his demise. And then he delivered.
Wrong: The redemption angle
This does not change the outcome of The 2016 Finals, NBA.com has learned. A forever moment for the Warrior franchise, yes. A better storyline because they won after leading 3-1, the exact situation that slipped through their hands a year ago, sure. But the roster is obviously different. If Golden State attaches the new finish to the old one, then it’s fair as the people who had to ensure 12 months of grief. It just feels like a reach.
Right: Steve Kerr
There was a very good chance the severe headaches, nausea and other illnesses from spinal fluid being leaked into his body could have sidelined him the entire championship series. Missing so much work at the critical time of the season raised the possibility the illness could force him into retirement. For Kerr to be on stage at the end with the rest of the Warriors almost certainly meant a lot to the many peers and former teammates around the league. If they were not rooting for Golden State, they were delighted that the man so many respect and like could be at the party he helped throw.
Wrong: Kevin Love
The lightning rod will only have to hear about his shambles of a Game 5 every day for the next several months. His inconsistent scoring in a series where the Cavaliers needed big production in support of James was an obvious problem. Love's final Finals chapter of 2017 was a 2-for-8 shooting performance for six points in 30 minutes, although he also finished with 10 rebounds (tied for the second-most on either team).
Right: The location
The idea is to win it anyway and anywhere, but Golden State finishing the title run at home was an especially nice touch, however unplanned it was. Bay Area fans established Warriors Ground long ago and kept it populated even during the bad years or when getting out of the first round of the playoffs was cause for celebration. The clinch on both previous championships in the West Coasts years, 1975 at Washington and 2015 at Cleveland, were on the road. That made Monday extra special for the locals.
Wrong: The Cavaliers
They have to sort through the big picture as well: losing four of five in The Finals, a sign of how much separation the Warriors have put between them and the field. The closest Cleveland could come was the occasional good stretch among the several bad. That should be a troubling sign as the Cavs head into the offseason. Four-one is a wide margin, leading to the difficult challenge of finding how to address it. Maybe management decides this team is one year removed from a title and will not be aiming for dramatic moves. Or maybe the same front office will decide 4-1 is the real dramatic.
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