NBA Finals: Warriors Win with Small Ball
It could have been more interesting if the Cleveland Cavaliers had brought their full complement of players. But give the Golden State Warriors credit. They did exactly what they were supposed to do in winning the NBA championship series in six games. The Warriors went small and got the outside shooting just when they needed it. In doing so, they brought a title home to a bay area that hadn’t had an NBA championship since their team was called the San Francisco Warriors.
Along the way, a star emerged for Golden State. Andre Iguodala, a forward who was relegated to a reserve role for much of the playoffs, started in Game 4 of the series and ignited his team in three straight victories. He capped it off with a 25-point performance in the final game and finished the series averaging 16 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Iguodala was the sparkplug in a mid-series strategy change made by Warriors Coach Steve Kerr. They needed the change, because it was testy for the Warriors at first. After winning Game 1 at home, they surrendered to the deliberate, inside-oriented play of Cleveland, losing the next game at home and again at Cleveland, to go down two games to one.
But Kerr decided to concede the inside game by going small and fast. He pulled seven-foot center Andrew Bogut from the starting order and inserted the 6-foot-6 Iguodala. The Warriors were good to go. While the Cavs still limited the pace, the Warriors’ smaller lineup made them more effective on defense, and gave them enough transition opportunities to allow sharpshooter Stephen Curry to work his magic. Curry, who averaged 26 points per game in the series, came free in crucial moments of the next three games, and dropped in the three-pointers needed to salt away the next three games, and the series.
Cleveland star LeBron James did what he could. He averaged 36 points for the series, including two triple-double performances. But with stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving injured and out, the Cavs had little more help.
Solid favorites going into the series, the Warriors’ championship was no surprise. The surprise was their clever change of strategy and the spark from a little-known forward.
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