No disrespect to the vaunted, pantheon-residing San Antonio Spurs and all their basketball grace. Best regards to the ensemble-minded but flawed 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks. And godspeed to Derrick Rose, CP3, Kevin Durant, James Harden, et al. Their collective championship yearning will serve us all a purpose in days ahead. And deepest condolences to fans of 28 teams not named the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Next year is only months away. Deep down, we know the 2014-15 NBA season’s manifest destiny was this: the flame-throwing Splash Bros versus LeBron Freakin’ James.
The 2015 NBA Finals will be many other things, too: rookie head coaches testing strategies at the game’s most prestigious stage. Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry flashing the best handles in the game. Two of the four best offenses in the NBA attacking above and below the rim with style. Breakthrough players like Draymond Green and Tristan Thompson validating max-contract speculation before a national audience. We’ll see a team that coasted through a cush Eastern Conference, and another that made one of the most competitive conferences in recent memory look soft.
The Warriors sealed the dream matchup Wednesday night, a 104-90 Game 5 win over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, for a 4-1 series win. Curry managed the last laugh over MVP runner-up James Harden, but the game hardly stuck to expected narratives. This was ugly at best, an uncharacteristically inefficient game for both teams. The Rockets shot a collective 35 percent from the field, only days after torching nets in an absurd Game 4 shooting clinic. James Harden’s 13 turnovers only compounded the mediocre shooting night.
After suffering a frightening head contusion in Game 4, Curry looked completely human, if still somewhat off. He ditched an Iverson-esque arm sleeve meant to protect his elbow after halftime and settled into attack-first point guard mode after two quarters of stilted shooting. Curry shot just 33 percent from the field and 27 percent from distance. Harrison Barnes picked up slack with the game of his career with a critical 24-point effort. The Warriors shot just 40.7 percent on the night, but only the final result mattered to the famously bonkers and championship-starved Oracle Arena crowd. For this tortured Warriors franchise, this was also about securing a trip to the NBA Finals for the first time in 40 years.
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