CLEVELAND, United States, Jun 5 – Two wins from completing the first unbeaten playoff championship run in NBA history, the Golden State Warriors are realizing the “Superteam” expectations they shouldered since signing Kevin Durant last July.
The Warriors ripped defending champion Cleveland 132-113 Sunday to seize a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals, which now shift to Cleveland for games Wednesday and Friday.
Golden State became the first club in NBA history to win 14 consecutive playoff games and the Warriors could be in the early years of a dynasty run to match legendary Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers teams.
“They’re the best I’ve ever seen,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I mean, no other team has done this, right? And they constantly break records every year.”
The Warriors won their first title in 40 years in 2015, downing an injury-hit Cleveland squad, and won a record 73 regular-season games the following campaign.
Golden State came within one win of a title repeat before LeBron James sparked the Cavaliers to the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, rallying from 3-1 down to claim the 2016 crown.
The Warriors answered by signing former Most Valuable Player Durant, adding a powerful forward to 3-point sharpshooters Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, a two-time NBA MVP, and top rebounder Draymond Green.
“You take one of the best teams that we had ever assembled last year, that we saw in the regular season and in the post-season, and then in the off-season you add a high-powered offensive talent like (Durant) and a great basketball IQ like that, that’s what stands out,” James said.
“I’ve seen a lot of great teams and they rank right up there. They work well together. They have some guys that can actually lead a franchise without anybody else.”
Durant complements his teammates, his inside play giving them outside shots and their work opening room for him to attack.
“We all got better and we have worked well together throughout the season,” Durant said. “One day it may be me, one day it may be Steph, Klay, Draymond. You never know who will come up and show up for us.”
– ‘Try to build a dynasty’ –
Golden State won a league-best 67 games this season. Since the playoffs began, the Warriors have been unbeatable, sweeping Portland, San Antonio and Utah.
Warriors reserve Andre Iguodala shrugs off the notion of needing an unbeaten title run.
“I don’t really care about history too much. I try not to focus on that,” he said. “Just handle business the way you’re supposed to handle business and that’s the way you make history.
“If you’re trying to chase something, that kind of deters what you’re trying to do. So for us, it’s just handling business.”
But make no mistake, beyond winning titles is a level of greatness the Warriors aspire to reach, a place among the all-time best.
“For us, that’s the goal, to try to build a dynasty and be great each and every time we step on the floor. That’s all the motivation we need,” Green said.
“It’s not Kevin came here, you have to win the championship. That’s the goal. He wants to be great… with that comes pressure from yourself more than anybody can ever put on you.”
– ‘Makes it look really easy’ –
Durant has taken a great team and perhaps made it one for the ages.
“I knew he was a special talent,” Thompson said. “It does surprise me, though, how effortless it looks for him. He makes it look really easy, and the stuff he does is incredibly hard.
“His length, his versatility to guard five positions, his ability to rebound the ball and block shots — he does everything. He’s a very complete player.”
The Warriors, however, know from last year that no matter how momentum swings, it’s not over until it’s over.
“We’ve been in this position before,” said Thompson.
“There are a lot of people who take it to the extreme, whether it’s, ‘Oh, the Cavs don’t have a chance,’ or ‘The Warriors, it’s over.’ Can’t listen to that. Got to shut it off.”