A basketball team with the two best shooters in the world, the best pure scorer in the world, and the most versatile and fearsome defender in the world just won the NBA Finals. They did it while absorbing some of LeBron James’s best punches, and as awe-inspiring as a 16-1 romp through the playoffs might be, this outcome was never really in doubt.
The Warriors are math, yes, but at some point someone has to arrange and balance the equation. Throughout the regular season, it was the team’s collective and overwhelming talent that made everything add up neatly; in the Finals it was Kevin Durant.
Durant won the Finals MVP award after averaging 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.6 blocks for the series. He did this while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor and 47.4 percent from three. He scored 39 last night and became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 to score 30 or more points in five straight Finals games.
The Warriors needed all of it, too. Steph Curry was just about flawless, but it never felt like Draymond Green or Klay Thompson were a threat to swing the series in the Warriors’ favor. Green shot 34.5 percent for the series and never got around to having the kind of statement game he had in Game 7 of last year’s Finals. Thompson hit all the shots he was supposed to and scored 16.4 points per game, but most of his energy was focused on playing defense.
It wasn’t just that Durant scored a lot of points, but how and when he scored them. Every time James and Kyrie Irving kickstarted a run and got their hands on the ledge, Durant was there, rising up for a three and stomping his landing right on their fingers. This shot, which gave the Warriors a 93-86 lead with just over three minutes left in the third quarter, is the kind of shot Durant spent all series nailing:
Maybe Thompson or Curry would have hit those shots if Durant never came to Golden State; maybe the Warriors would have won the title without him; maybe Durant didn’t actually alter NBA history in any meaningful way. It’s tough to believe that given how ascendant James was all series, but none of those hypotheticals matter, anyway. Durant came to the Warriors to be the guy who could allow them to meet and overcome James’s unrelenting talent and will. He did that.