CLEVELAND - Sporting the effects of a championship celebration 40 years in the making, Steve Kerr knows the skeptics have been silenced but he isn't about to poke out his chest or gloat.
The thought of a team that relies mostly on perimeter shooting capturing the Larry O'Brien Trophy was supposed to be a pipe dream, yet there were the Warriors Tuesday night, carrying around the huge prize for winning the NBA Finals.
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A 105-97 victory over the Cavaliers cemented Golden State in title lore for the first time since 1975. The Warriors finished off a run fueled by a jump-shooting offensive unit led by reigning MVP Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
But that's not all the Warriors did well in dispatching LeBron James' Cavaliers 4-2 in their best-of-seven series and foil his bid to end Cleveland's 51-year pro title drought. There's another element to Golden State's championship-winning formula, one that could aid in the Warriors remaining among the upper echelon of the rough-and-rugged Western Conference and making another deep playoff trek next season.
"Everyone wanted to talk about how many threes we took," said Kerr, who became the first rookie coach to guide his team to the league's championship since Pat Riley did it in 1982. "We're the No. 1 defensive team in the league, and that's what wins. You've got to be able to score points somehow, but you have to be good defensively. You have to be great defensively to win a title. For whatever reason, that seemed to be overlooked this year. But the combination of the offense and the defense, that matters, and I don't think people pointed that out enough."
Golden State's run was the product of a returning core of Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and David Lee. The Warriors also bolstered their bench with the additions of former Net Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa in the offseason.
In a sign of the team's unselfishness, Iguodala accepted his role of coming off the bench for the first time in his career after starting all 806 of his career games in his first 10 seasons. Kerr inserted him into the starting lineup in Game 4 for center Andrew Bogut and Golden State promptly won three straight games, leading to Iguodala garnering Finals MVP honors.
Lee, who according to sources has agreed to part ways with Golden State, had been mostly an afterthought for much of the playoffs, but he got increased playing time after the Warriors fell behind 2-1 in the Finals. Kerr had the touch and everything came together just perfectly.
"He's taken a solid foundation that we built over the last three years," Curry said. "Obviously, coach [Mark] Jackson had a huge part in changing our identity, and coach Kerr came in and was very humble about how he was going to approach his job. Because, like I said, he had a lot of talent to work with, a great coaching staff, but he had some ideas as well that he wanted to implement -- ball movement, player movement, managing all the different personalities and situations, [he] handled them so well. Made sure everybody was accountable.
"Every decision he made, I think everybody bought into it. Whether you understood it or not, you bought into it. Because he's a champion. He's won five of these . . . so you've got to trust a guy that's been here before and his view for our team."