OAKLAND, Calif. — When the 2016-17 NBA season began, the Warriors were a prohibitive favorite to win the title after adding former MVP free-agent Kevin Durant to a cast that already included two-time MVP Stephen Curry and All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. A year later, that forgone conclusion was reached as the Warriors closed out the Cavaliers in a 4-1 series win Monday night at Oracle Arena to complete an NBA-record 16-1 playoffs run.
In show biz, they say to never let the audience see you sweat, and indeed, the Warriors made it look easy. But Thompson said their second title in three seasons was built on plenty of sweat over the course of the season.
“Although people did expect us to win, people don’t realize how hard it is to go out there and do it,” Thompson said. “You look at our record, and they say, ‘16-1. It was easy.’ But it wasn’t.”
Pointing to Game 3, when the Warriors finished with an 11-0 run to win by five points, Thompson said, “This series could have really changed in Game 3. But we had big-time players make big-time plays, like Kevin. Then, the Cavs blitzed us in Game 4. We didn’t want to have to go back to Cleveland, and we responded really well tonight. It was a beautiful year. We’re going to enjoy it. We worked so hard for this.”
Green recalled his efforts to recruit Durant after the Warriors blew a 3-1 series lead to the Cavaliers a year ago after beating them for the title in 2015. “We were great, but we were able to keep our eyes open to know there was someone and something that can make this whole thing complete,” Green said. “We felt like Kevin could come in and help us, and he showed that. Finals MVP, 4-1, world champions. Doesn’t get much better than that.”
In the early going, Green said Curry “definitely took a back seat” in an effort to allow Durant to flourish. Eventually, all the Warriors stars realized they needed to remain aggressive and play their own games within the Warriors’ unselfish framework.
“I think it was after Christmas Day (a one-point loss in Cleveland), when Steph turned that corner, and we became almost unbeatable,” Green said. “That was this whole thing: ‘Who is going to take less shots? Is it going to be Steph, K.D., Klay?’ None of them. The ball’s going to find who it needs to find, and that’s those three guys.”
Warriors general manager Bob Myers signed Durant to a two-year deal and now must find a way to keep the four-man core to a potential dynasty intact. But he said he would take a day to enjoy the moment before worrying about that.
“Kevin’s journey, our team embraced him,” Myers said. “Some teams wouldn’t embrace a (superstar) who came into a situation like ours. It looks like it was easy, but with guys like Steph Curry welcoming him and kind of letting him shine, it worked out like it should.”