CLEVELAND, June 16- An emotional Golden State Warriors squad captured its first NBA title in 40 years on Tuesday, holding off the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-97 to win the NBA Finals.
NBA regular season Most Valuable Player Steph Curry and NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Andre Iguodala each scored 25 points as the Warriors took the best-of-seven series four games to two to claim their first crown since 1975 and fourth overall.
“World champions,” Curry said. “This is something special. This is a special group. From the start of the season this is what we envisioned. We’re going to remember this for a long time.”
Iguodala spent 758 games as a starter before being consigned to a reserve role this season, only to become a starter for Golden State in the final three games.
The move produced a faster lineup that sparked the Warriors to wins in each game to subdue the stubborn Cavaliers.
“This is awesome,” Iguodala said. “This is what we talked about, staying strong, staying with it. They kept fighting. This is unreal.”
Iguodala saved his scoring season-high for the trophy-clinching game while Draymond Green added 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for Golden State in the decider.
“This is great,” Iguodala said. “We’re going to remember this for a long time.”
Curry joined Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy as the only point guards to win the regular-season NBA MVP award and capture the league title in the same season, a thrill he shared with his father Dell, a former NBA standout who never claimed the crown.
“He played 16 years and never got the chance to enjoy this,” Curry said. “He can enjoy this through me and the whole team. Unimaginable feeling.”
Cleveland’s LeBron James scored 32 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and passed out nine assists to lead the Cavaliers, who could not bring Cleveland its first sports title since 1964.
James fell to 2-4 in NBA Finals appearance, a far cry from the 6-0 mark prior NBA superstar Michael Jordan had in the finals.
– No experience necessary –
Golden State became the first team since the 1991 Chicago Bulls to win a title with no players having prior NBA Finals experience and Steve Kerr became the first rookie coach to capture the crown since Pat Riley with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982.
“It’s a great feeling,” Kerr said. “From the beginning we were in it to win it.”
James, 30, became the youngest by a year to join the 5,000 career NBA playoff points club alongside Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Cleveland trimmed a 13-point Golden State lead after the first quarter to 45-43 at half-time and began the third quarter with baskets by Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson to give the Cavaliers their first lead since the early minutes.
But the Warriors answered with a 24-8 scoring run, Iguodala scoring seven points while Festus Ezeli scored the last six points, the Nigerian’s 3-point play giving Golden State a 69-55 advantage.
Down 75-61 early in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers went on a 7-0 run, James contributing a layup and fast break dunk to halve the Warriors’ lead.
– Curry, Iguodala shine –
But Curry and Iguodala each had two 3-pointers to spark Golden State on a 17-9 run for a 92-77 edge with 6:01 to play.
Again Cleveland battled back. J.R. Smith added three 3-pointers and James a layup to pull the Cavs within 101-97 with 33 seconds remaining, but Curry and Iguodala sank late free throws to seal the victory.
Curry scored seven consecutive points to give Golden State an early 13-8 edge and the Warriors closed the first quarter with an 11-2 run for a 28-15 lead. The Cavaliers made nine turnovers in the first quarter while the Warriors shared 11 assists in pulling away.
James and reserve James Jones each scored five points in a 12-4 run to open the second quarter, pulling the Cavaliers within 32-27. The Warriors missed nine shots in a row and 10 of their first 11 in the period.
Cleveland closed the first half with an 8-2 run, Thompson’s rebound dunk pulling the Cavaliers within 45-43 at half-time.