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NBA Finals: Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry praise one another

The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, left, celebrates

The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, left, celebrates with teammate Kevin Durant after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 129-120, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, June 12, 2017. Photo Credit: TNS / Nhat V. Meyer

OAKLAND, Calif. — The confetti was raining down inside Oracle Arena Monday night after the Warriors’ 129-120 Game 5 victory over the Cavaliers gave them a 4-1 NBA Finals win and their second title in three seasons when Kevin Durant and Steph Curry found each other for a heartfelt hug.

When former MVP Durant signed on last summer as a free-agent to join two-time MVP Curry, many wondered how two such dominant players would co-exist. They provided the answer in a record 16-1 playoffs run that culminated with a Game 5 performance in which they combined to score 73 points. It was the first title for Durant after 10 seasons in the league, and no one was happier for him than Curry.

“This is what we talked about the whole year, realizing this goal and understanding how important both would be to the equation, along with our teammates,” Curry said. “We learned a lot about each other going through this journey. The way he embraced the opportunity in the Finals was unbelievable.

“It’s kind of crazy to think about the conversations we had going into the year about how we both can mesh, and to see it come to life in this series was unbelievable . . . You got to call Kevin Durant a champ now. I’m just so happy for him to be able to realize his goal and be my teammate.”

Durant was equally effusive in praise of Curry, saying they have grown closer as the season progressed. They pushed each other day after day in practice, and it paid off.

Sensitive to criticism Curry received a year ago when the Warriors blew a 3-1 Finals lead and lost the title to the Cavs, Durant said, “For him to play well throughout the whole series, it feels great. A lot of people have been doubting him and hoping that he fails and that I fail, hoping that we fail as a group.

“I told him, his energy, we feed off him. He’s our vocal leader. In a closeout game in the Finals, he’s a big dog.”

Curry had 34 points and 10 assists and got to the line for 15 foul shots, making 12. Durant had 39 points on 14-of-20 shooting. So, it was a prolific night for both, but it was borne out of early-season struggles when Curry was focusing on playing a lesser role in the offense to allow Durant to thrive.

Curry identified the Warriors’ one-point loss on Christmas Day in Cleveland as the turning point when he and Durant concluded they both needed to stay aggressive and not worry about who scored the most points or took the most shots.

“There’s a point where I tried to analyze and control the situation and make sure everybody was happy and getting shots and things like that,” Curry said of his point guard duties. “Honestly, after that Christmas Day game, I kind of understood that we have such high IQ players that, if I could be aggressive and do what I need to do every single night, everything will kind of flow from that. I think the proof is obviously in what we were able to accomplish from that point on and being 16-1 in the playoffs, putting all the puzzle pieces together.”

Durant was the Finals MVP, topping 30 points every game and averaging 35.2 points, but he knows considerable credit goes to Curry for the pressure he puts on opposing defenses.

“I told him, ‘When you play with force, I’ve never seen a player like you,’” Durant said of Curry. “And he played with force tonight. The stuff you hear about Steph as far as sacrificing and being selfless and caring about other people is real. It’s not a fake. It’s not a façade. He really is like that, and it’s amazing to see a superstar who sacrifices, who doesn’t care about nothing but the group.”

Turns out the Warriors have two of them for what seems destined to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

New York Sports