June 9, 2018, 12:15 am
The NBA’s latest dynasty has officially staked another claim as its greatest. The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-85 on Friday night, winning their second consecutive championship with a four-game sweep of their long-time rival – a team that’s likely to look far, far different this time next year.
Coming into Game 4, the Finals’ only remaining intrigue was how quickly the Warriors would dispatch of the Cavaliers, and who would be named MVP whenever they did it. Steph Curry made that choice difficult for voters, setting an energetic, aggressive tone for Golden State from the opening tip – especially crucial given the Warriors were blow out under these exact circumstances last year. He had 37 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals on Friday, connecting on 7-of-15 from beyond the arc in the process. Just like 2015 and 2017, though, the voters chose one of Curry’s teammates for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy instead.
Kevin Durant was a worthy choice, too. He was the epitome of Golden State’s two-way excellence in Game 4, finishing with 20 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and three blocks. This was easily his best individual effort guarding LeBron James in the Finals, too. Durant averaged 28.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.3 blocks per game against Cleveland. He shot 52.6 percent overall and 40.9 percent from three, en route to a true shooting percentage of 65.4 – over nine points higher than Curry’s, whose Game 3 clunker likely cost him the award.
Durant’s Finals MVP, by the way, puts him rarified air. He becomes the 11th player in league history to win the award, joining the likes of Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan and James. Say what you will about Durant’s decision to join the 73-win team that beat him, but his place among the game’s historical elite has already been cemented.
7.5 assists pic.twitter.com/ePTZam47Jq
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) June 9, 2018
The Cavaliers, of course, deserve credit for getting to a fourth straight matchup with the Warriors altogether. They not only needed seven games to dispatch of the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, but were outscored by a whopping 40 points in the series. Cleveland looked helpless against the Boston Celtics at times in the Eastern Conference Finals, with each of their losses coming by at least 13 points. But the Celtics are a far different team on the road, and James rescued the Cavaliers with a Game 7 performance at T.D. Garden that Ty Lue called the best of his career.
James, who had 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, in Game 3 has never endured a more arduous road to June. To do what he did against Golden State, averaging 34.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10 assists per game on 52.5 percent shooting without a star running mate, should be considered one of the most notable accomplishments of his career. But it won’t be, of course, as much for Cleveland getting swept as the uncertain nature of his playing future. The Cavaliers aren’t nearly good enough to compete with the Warriors as currently constructed, and have limited means of upward mobility. James very well just might have played his last game in wine and gold again.
Cleveland fans knew it, too, rising to their feet and serenading James with chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” as he checked out of the game with 4:03 remaining.
Cleveland gives LeBron a standing ovation as he leaves the court for what could be his last game in a Cavs jersey… pic.twitter.com/2sI5Tw53no
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 9, 2018
There’s an unescapable sense of resignation to this result. The Warriors entered 2017-18 as overwhelming title favorites, and the Cavaliers were the biggest underdog in the history of the Finals. But those realities, forecasted as they were, completely ignore the grind it took for Golden State to repeat as champions.
Curry played only 51 games during the regular season, and didn’t make his playoff debut until Game 2 of the second round. Durant and Draymond Green combined for 29 technicals and eight ejections, evidence of complacent frustration gleaned from getting through the doldrums of the 82-game drudgery. The Warriors entered the playoffs losing 10 of their last 18 games. The Houston Rockets were up 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals, and led Golden State by 11 points at halftime of a Game 7 played at Toyota Center.
“This is the hardest year we’ve had of the three championships,” Kerr said on the postgame championship podium. “By far.”
All titles are won differently, and the Warriors’ third in four years came harder than their last. There’s no telling how many more Larry O’Brien trophies this group will hoist. After a summer of re-tooling the bottom half of its roster, Golden State, possessing less quality depth this season than ever before, should be even better next season. It may seem like the Warriors have been doing this forever; four seasons of dominance makes time slow to a crawl. We’re right in the middle of Golden State’s dynasty, though. It is far, far from over.
The entire league will be coming for the Warriors again next fall. And hopefully, wherever James is playing, he’ll have a realistic chance to dethrone them.
February 21, 2020, 10:39 pmAron BaynesC, Phoenix Suns
Aron Baynes (left hip soreness) played 10 minutes on Friday in his return from injury, scoring five points.
Nothing on his stat line was notable this evening. Given that Dario Saric also returned tonight from a stint on the shelf and the options the Suns already have in the front court, Baynes' fantasy presence looks to be nonexistent the rest of the way. If Ayton or Saric goes down, however, Baynes would immediately become relevant again.
February 21, 2020, 10:36 pmPascal SiakamPF, Toronto Raptors
Pascal Siakam scored 37 points, 12 rebounds and added three assists and three blocks in a 118-101 win over the Suns on Friday.
Siakam hit five threes and went 12-of-19 from the field. He has established himself as a true star in the NBA and fantasy owners are undoubtedly reaping the benefits of his great play. Keep starting him every time the Raptors play.
February 21, 2020, 10:33 pmAndre DrummondC, Cleveland Cavaliers
Andre Drummond put up a mixed-bag result on Friday, getting his ubiquitous double-double with 12 points (6-of-11 shooting), 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks.
Drummond actually struggled in this game. Not only did he miss both free throw attempts, but also wound up committing seven turnovers as Bradley Beal appeared to have his number all night long. Drummond should perform a lot better than this, so just chalk it up to an adjustment phase as he acclimates to his new team.
February 21, 2020, 10:30 pmDevin BookerSG, Phoenix Suns
Devin Booker had 21 points, eight assists and five rebounds in Friday's losing effort vs. the Raptors.
He went 8-for-18 from the floor and missed four of his five threes. Maybe Booker was going through a bit of a Three-Point Competition hangover of sorts because he looked a bit rusty. He has been one of the most consistent players in the league this season. Look for him to shake it off tomorrow against a weak Bulls team.
February 21, 2020, 10:27 pmCollin SextonPG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Collin Sexton was a points machine in the Cavs' win over the Wizards on Friday with a team-high 25 points (8-of-17 FGs, 7-of-10 FTs), two rebounds, two assists and two treys.
Sexton's lack of assists and steals on a regular basis has been the biggest roadblock on his path to fantasy relevance. He's more of a points contributor and not much else on most nights. But at 25 points tonight, he's still an end-of-bench guy in standard leagues.
February 21, 2020, 10:26 pmDomantas SabonisC, Indiana Pacers
Domantas Sabonis notched 24 points (8-for-16 shooting), 13 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 37 minutes as the Pacers beat the Knicks 106-98.
Sabonis is a safe bet for points, rebounds and assists almost every night and Friday was no different. While some choose to nitpick at the lack of threes and defense, just enjoy the consistent baseline of counting stats he gives you if he's on your roster.
February 21, 2020, 10:25 pmDeandre AytonC, Phoenix Suns
Deandre Ayton notched a double-double on Friday vs. the Raptors, putting up 17 points and 10 boards.
Ayton played 35 minutes in this one which is notable because the Suns were closely monitoring his left ankle prior to Friday's game. He's a top-25 guy over the past two months since returning from suspension so as long as he stays healthy he will remain a must-start player in all formats.
February 21, 2020, 10:22 pmTJ WarrenSF, Indiana Pacers
T.J. Warren scored 27 points (10-for-21 shooting), eight rebounds, three assists, two triples, two steals and a block across 37 minutes on Friday.
Warren was questionable to play in this one but came through with a huge performance. There's a chance Victor Oladipo cramps Warren's style a bit but so far so good. Keep him rolling if healthy.
February 21, 2020, 10:18 pmMalcolm BrogdonPG, Indiana Pacers
Malcolm Brogdon scored 11 points (4-for-14 shooting), eight rebounds, seix assists and a steal across 34 minutes on Friday.
It was an ugly night from the field for Brogdon but he filled the stat sheet up in other areas salvaging a solid fantasy line. It remains to be seen if the extended time off during the all star break will help him capture his early-season form.
February 21, 2020, 10:18 pmRicky RubioPG, Phoenix Suns
Ricky Rubio scored 13 points on 4-of-9 FG and added nine assists and four steals in the Suns' loss to the Raptors on Friday.
Rubio still did not shoot the ball all that well, but the four steals made this a very usable fantasy game. He has kept his value in the top 80 this season and while his performances are often nothing to write home about, he is still a must-own player.