Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors to win his first NBA championship.
The Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-120 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, clinching their second title in three years and their fifth in team history, avenging the loss to Cleveland after blowing a 3-1 lead a year ago.
Durant led Golden State with 39 points, seven rebounds and five assists and was named NBA Finals MVP in a unanimous vote. He scored 30 or more points in all five Finals games.
“I couldn’t sleep for two days,” Durant told reporter Doris Burke. “I was anxious. I was jittery. I just wanted to lay it all out there.”
Following Monday’s win, he embraced his mother, Wanda Durant, on the court.
“I’m proud of you, son,” she said.
Said Stephen Curry of his teammate: “The way that he embraced the opportunity in The Finals, it was unbelievable.”
This was the first time in NBA history the same two teams met in the NBA Finals for a third straight time. The Warriors won the title in 2015 in six games, while the Cavaliers dramatically won in 2016 in seven, becoming the first team in NBA history to win a series trailing 3-1.
Durant, who famously called his mom the “real MVP” when he won the NBA MVP Award in 2014, knew what it felt like to lose a 3-1 lead — and losing to LeBron James. In the 2012 NBA Finals, Durant was playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder and lost to James — who was then with the Miami Heat — in five games.
After the Cavaliers won the title in 2016, Golden State’s focus turned to a player who wasn’t in the NBA Finals: Durant. He was entering free agency after the Thunder gave away a 3-1 lead against the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. It spurred the most frenzy surrounding an NBA free agent decision since James announced in 2014 that he would return to the Cavaliers after spending four seasons with the Heat.
With a superstar in Durant teaming with another in Curry — as well as with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson — it made Golden State a super team. The only unknown was if the team chemistry would be disrupted with Durant’s addition.
The answer: An emphatic no. The group was close to unstoppable in the regular season and postseason. While the Warriors didn’t surpass their NBA record of 73 regular-season from 2016 (they settled for 67 this year), they still had the NBA’s best regular-season record. Golden State went 16-1 in this year’s playoffs, good for the highest winning percentage (.941) in a single postseason, surpassing the Los Angeles Lakers from 2001 (15-1, .938). Twelve of the Warriors’ 16 playoff wins this postseason were by double digits.
Not only could Durant coexist with Curry and the rest of the Warriors, but they also thrived.