The Golden State Warriors have won their 4th title in the last 8 seasons and this victory is arguably the most important title for them in that awesome run. The Warriors big three of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green won the title in 2015, 2017, 2018 and now 2022. For all the dominance, style and sophisticated play of the Warriors, each of their previous title wins was always poked apart by critics as handed to them by either unfortunate circumstances to their opponents or due to an unfairly overpowered squad.
In their 2015 when they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in 6 games, many critics of the Warriors claimed that they only won that series because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love got hurt. The performance of Curry was not viewed as critical to their success and as a result he lost the finals MVP award to Andre Igoudala who was inserted into the starting lineup by Steve Kerr to thwart the offensive prowess of Lebron. The Warriors defeat was deemed as unimpressive to the extent that there were calls for Lebron James to be awarded the finals MVP despite being on the losing team
After a record setting 2015-2016 season for the Warriors and Curry where the team set a record number of wins with 73 wins to surpass Michael Jordan’s 95-96 bulls record of 72 wins. Curry was voted the only unanimous regular season MVP in history however he faced disappointment in the playoffs where the Warriors threw a 3-1 lead to the Cavaliers and eventually lost the championship in an epic 93-89 Game 7 loss to the Cavaliers thanks to a dominant performance from Lebron James and Kyrie Irving.
The Warriors then went ahead to recruit Kevin Durant to form what was labelled a superteam and went on to win 2 championships in the 3 seasons Durant spent with the Warriors with Durant winning the finals MVP on both occasions (2016-2017 & 2017-2018) over the Cavaliers and the narrative around Curry and the Warriors was that they needed Durant to win those championships and the Warriors could not win a championship without Durant as their previous 2014-2015 championship was gifted to them due to the unfortunate injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
Immediately Klay suffered his long term ACL injury which he suffered in Game 6 of the 2019 finals loss against the Toronto Raptors and Durant subsequently leaving the Warriors, the Warriors went through a lengthy time in the wilderness where they missed the playoffs for 2 straight seasons, were one of the worst teams in the NBA and everyone thought the era of the Warriors dominance was over.
However the Warriors used their time out of the spotlight to gradually build a new generation of players who were on a mission to climb to the top of the NBA ranks with Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Gary Payton II and Otto Porter playing major roles in the new iteration of the Warriors.
While many fans and analysts criticized the acquisition of Wiggins who was assumed to be a bust and a player who failed to live up to his number 1 draft pick, the Warriors front office believed he was an essential piece for their championship run as they believed they could mold him to an efficient 2-way player who is efficient on both ends of the floor and their bet on him was eventually proven to be the right choice.
For the Golden State Warriors this series win over the Celtics has definitely left a sore taste in the mouth of their critics as the excuses used to diminish their previous titles don’t hold a candle to any form of scrutiny. The Boston Celtics were at full strength as none of their starters or key players suffered any injury nor could there be a claim that the Warriors squad was stronger than the Celtics squad because prior to their final matchup, the Celtic had faced arguably tougher competition on their journey to the finals. Both teams duked it out on equal footing and the better team prevailed.
For Steph Curry on the other hand, he dominated both teams in scoring throughout the series except for a sloppy Game 5 performance where he was held to just 16 pts and no made 3pts attempt. Nobody predicted the Warriors would get this far because Klay was just coming back from a serious injury, Green and Igoudala were also hurt for most of the season and there were doubts on how their new players such as Poole and Gary Payton II would cope with the intensity of playoffs basketball coupled with the fact that they had a poor end to the season, where they went 6-4 in their last 10 games and finished third in the Western Conference behind the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzles.
This victory was also great for the Warriors because they beat the highly fancied Celtics who went through a rugged Eastern Conference with tough teams such as the Brooklyn Nets, defending champions Milwaukee Bucks and the Jimmy Butler led Miami Heat to get to the finals. The Celtics defensive tenacity was lauded throughout the playoffs especially after they comfortably swept aside the Brooklyn Nets led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs. The assumption made by casual fans and some biased pundits was if the Celtics could easily hold off the superstar duo of Durant and Irving, there is no way the Warriors would beat them and they would totally render Curry ineffective throughout the series but Curry had other ideas.
Curry proved all his critics and doubters wrong with a stat line of 31.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 6 games against the Celtics while shooting 43.7% from deep and his improved defensive play helped the Warriors to win the title.
With the lack of a finals MVP in his resume, Curry’s skills and talent when the championship on the line was always questioned as he did not win the finals MVP in any of his 3 championship victories between 2015 to 2018 however his sublime performance in this series was enough for him to finally win the finals MVP which was the elusive award that was missing from his resume.
With this performance Curry and the Warriors have proven that their 2015 title win was not a fluke, that their style of play is suited to winning multiple championships, that they can win a championship without Kevin Durant and that Curry can indeed serve as the anchor piece & leader of a championship winning team.
Over to you Kevin Durant