Golden State Warriors attain perfect redemption

Golden State Warriors closed out the Cavaliers in five games to raise their second NBA title in three years. That must have been sweet revenge, came as it did on their home floor at the Oracle Arena in Oakland against the very team that bested them in last year’s Finals.

Golden State Warriors soak in the adulation of their fans during the victory parade in Oakland, California.   -  AP

The hallmark of a champion does not necessarily reflect in his or her ability to win titles alone. Sometimes it shows in their tenacity to bounce back after facing stinging defeat. The great Muhammad Ali lost to Joe Frazier in 1971, but then came back to beat Frazier in their next two fights. It is why the legends of the 2011 Indian ODI World Cup-winning team are saluted because after their ignominious exit from the 2007 ICC World Cup in the West Indies, the Men in Blue roared at home four years later to win it all at the Wankhede Stadium against Sri Lanka. These men, these champion sportsmen displayed tenacity, overcame the ghosts in their past to realise their dreams.

They have our utmost respect.

Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors was able to get his team to learn from their mistakes last year and keep their focus even as they obliterated records all season long.   -  AFP

Something similar can be said of the 2017 NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors. Yes, those very same Warriors, who blew a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers and lost 3-4. Those Warriors were rank favourites to win the title even before the 2016 Finals began, given their historic 73-9 regular season record they had. Defeat tastes bitter, but last year’s Finals loss must have given the Warriors many a nightmare to live with.

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Until June 12 that is, when they closed out the Cavaliers in five games to raise their second NBA title in three years. That must have been sweet revenge, came as it did on their home floor at the Oracle Arena in Oakland against the very team that bested them in last year’s Finals. The Warriors’ win in 2017 was akin to a wrestler getting body slammed, only to get up and finish off his opponent in a couple of quick, ruthless moves.

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The Warriors had motivated themselves towards this finish ever since the 2016 Finals came to an end. All through the 2016-17 regular season and playoff run, they remained committed to their agenda of winning 16 games. A 67-15 NBA-best regular season record and playoff sweeps did not mean anything to them. That they achieved the best post-season run by an NBA team when they won 15 successive games in the 2017 Playoffs, showed their hunger and their eagerness to get to the finish line.

The 2017 Finals result has also seen many of the Warriors redeem themselves. Steph Curry, the league’s two-time reigning MVP, and only ever unanimous MVP selection when he won the award in 2016, came in for a lot of criticism when his play in the 2016 Finals slipped below his stunning 2015-16 regular season showing. In the 2017 Finals, Curry delivered in every possible way as he blitzed his way to 26.8 ppg (Points per game), 8.0 rpg (Rebounds per game) and 9.4 apg (Assists per game) against the Cavaliers.

Kevin Durant put his mark on the 2017 Finals with his MVP play.   -  AFP

 

Draymond Green, suspended for Game 5 of the 2016 Finals, his absence marking a turning point in that series, played with heart and hustle all through the regular season. A frontrunner in the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year nominations, Green may have possibly been the biggest guiding factor for the Warriors all season long. His double-double average (11.0 ppg and 10.2 rpg) and highly emotional play in the Finals would have won him back some of his critics.

Then there was Steve Kerr, the man who endured illness during these playoffs, to eventually return to the sidelines during Game 2 of the 2017 Finals. But having been a part of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ 72-10 team and then the Warriors’ 73-9 squad, Kerr would have known greatness is truly determined through rings. That he was able to get his team to learn from their mistakes last year and keep their focus even as they obliterated records all season long, makes Kerr an even bigger figure around the Warriors’ franchise.

Ultimately, the 2017 Finals saw the redemption of Kevin Durant. The same Durant, who lost the 2012 NBA Finals to LeBron James and his Miami Heat back then. The same Durant, who ceded a 1-3 lead to the Warriors as a part of the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise in the 2016 Western Conference Finals. The same Durant, who was severely criticised for bolting for the Warriors in the off season. All those negative memories were wiped out as Durant put his mark on the 2017 Finals with his MVP play. He went toe-to-to with James and delivered for the Warriors every time they needed a player to step up.

Really, to see these Warriors win it all was the perfect curtain call to a memorable 2016-17 NBA season.