The last time the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship, the World Trade Center was a year old and John N. Mitchell, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman had just been convicted for their involvement in the Watergate cover-up. But on Tuesday night the wait for another title finally ended, as they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games and became just the 10th team since the 1979-80 season to win a title.
The glorious celebration that included the hoisting of the Larry O’Brien and Finals MVP trophies, the locker room champagne shower and myriad hugs, laughs and tears of joy painted a picture of a team that finally ascended to basketball immortality after an amazing season.
But this feat of winning 83 games (including playoffs) and capping it off by taking home the only hardware that truly matters didn’t come by circumventing adversity. The Warriors battled through every hardship and inch of turmoil that was in their way.
Back in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Memphis Grizzlies held a 2-1 series lead over the Dubs, and the consensus was that the prohibitive favorite to win the title was in a world of trouble. In their two victories (Games 2 and 3), the Grizzlies held Golden State to just 89.5 points per game.
The Grizzlies became an excellent defensive team under former head coach Lionel Hollins, and that’s poured over into the Dave Joerger era. After three games in that series, it seemed like their defensive prowess and toughness would prove to be too much for the finesse Warriors.
Stephen Curry and the Warriors quickly silenced the critics with three decisive wins in a row, putting up 102.3 points per game to win the series in six games. The injuries to Mike Conley and Tony Allen might have played a role in their victory, but discrediting their triumph in this series would be an egregious mistake.
The Cavaliers came into the Finals banged up with Kevin Love sidelined for the rest of the year, and then suffered more devastating news when Kyrie Irving had season-ending surgery after Game 1. But they somehow managed to win two of the first three games in the series and seized all the momentum.
The entire sports world toyed with the notion that the greatness of LeBron James might be enough to overcome the deficiencies of the Cleveland roster. He was asked to shoulder such a load that if the series ended with a championship banner for the Cavs, James would be crowned as the best player to ever play the sport.
Like the Grizzlies series, the Warriors faced a Game 4 on the road down 2-1. With the “Matthew Dellavedova is the Curry stopper” narrative catching extreme momentum, and their role players continuing to fall short in their production, all pressure was on them to corral a victory in what was deemed a must-win situation.
It was another decisive response for the Dubs, this time by 21 points behind excellent performances from Curry and their Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala. This was the first of three straight wins en route to their first title in 40 years.
We’ve since learned that no good deed goes unpunished. Subsequent to them winning the title, many have tried to dilute the accomplishment because they faced a depleted Cavs roster and caught some breaks in the earlier rounds.
Looking back over the course of their postseason run, all the teams they faced had injuries to their starting point guard. Is that their fault? Absolutely not.
Before we engage in such foolery of acting like their victory deserves as asterisk, their season in its totality needs to be respected and accounted for. The Western Conference was arguably as tough as it’s ever been, and they managed to win it by a whopping 11 games. They won 67 games during the regular season with an average point differential of 10.1.
And lastly, they overcame a significant amount of adversity during their postseason run. Overcoming 2-1 deficits against Memphis and Cleveland can’t be glossed over. The best team in the NBA won it all on Tuesday night, and so did we. They gave us something to cheer about. They treated us to exciting basketball every game. Whether you like it or not, the most deserving team as indicated by their dominance all year long was rewarded.