For the first time in 40 years, the Golden State Warriors are champions of the NBA, this after beating the Cavaliers in Cleveland, 105-97, in Game 6 on Tuesday. The Warriors trailed 2-1 in the series but won the final three games by a combined 42 points to win their first title since 1975.
But if you were hoping for some dramatic, at-long-last celebration, well, you had better look elsewhere.
“It was weird because none of the players lived any of that history,” CSN Bay Area columnist Ray Ratto said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “In fact, almost nobody in the current organization had been there for very much of it. So they only understood it when people that had been following them for a long time would talk to them about it. It was sort of like having your grandfather explain World War II to you.”
Indeed, Golden State players and coaches were aware of the franchise’s title drought, of course, but few – if any – were actually parched by it.
“I think what they went through was something completely different, which was being maybe the first team in the history of the league – and one of very few in the history of North American team sports – to go through an entire season with no adversity at all,” Ratto said. “No injuries. In fact, the one injury they did have, they ended up getting better because of it. David Lee couldn’t start the season, so Draymond Green became the new 4. Never had any issues with guys who complained about their playing time. Never had a losing streak of more than two. I don’t think the entire history is something you can get your head around unless you sort of lived it, and for the most part, they really haven’t.”
And then there’s Cleveland. The Cavs have never won an NBA title, and the city hasn’t won a championship in any sport in more than half a century.
“I think the closets I saw to any real bitterness was when the topic of the Warriors would come up and they’d say, ‘Well, if we were healthy, this would have been different,’” Ratto said. “And it would have been different. Cleveland would have been a much different team, Golden State would have had to attack them differently and defend against them differently and you still might have had the same outcome. There’s no way of knowing that. But this was a hard series to watch in some ways because Cleveland was sort of trying to cheat the reaper. It was LeBron this and LeBron that and waiting for somebody else to become a factor – and they never really got that second factor.”
Timofey Mozgov played well in Games 4 and 6 – combining for 45 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks – but the Cavs lost both games by a combined 29 points. J.R. Smith showed flashes in the series but was inconsistent overall. Iman Shumpert and James Jones disappeared. Matthew Dellavedova wore down.
“Really, it was watching a team just slowly exhaust itself trying to push a tractor up a muddy hill,” Ratto said. “So I think in that way, it’s a great metaphor for the Cleveland sports fan – because they saw a team basically truly leave it all out on the floor but have no chance to win ultimately because they had three fewer players than Golden State.”