Cleveland, OH (SportsNetwork.com) – A beaming Stephen Curry raised his arms in the air with both index fingers pointed to the sky. Seconds later, the NBA MVP received a congratulatory handshake from LeBron James.
After the final buzzer sounded, NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala retrieved the game ball, clenched it tightly against his hip and joyfully began to jump up and down.
The 40-year drought is over.
Curry had 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds, Iguodala added a season- high 25 points and the Warriors claimed their first NBA title since 1975 with a 105-97 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
Draymond Green posted the franchise’s first playoff triple-double since Guy Rodgers in 1962 with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
It’s the franchise’s fourth NBA championship.
“I’m kind of speechless,” Curry said. “To be able to hold this trophy and all the hard work we’ve put into it this season, this is special. We’re definitely a great team and a team that should go down in history as one of the best teams from top to bottom.”
James had 32 points, 18 boards and nine helpers for Cleveland and averaged a staggering 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game in the series.
Thrust into the starting lineup for the first time all season in Game 4, Iguodala helped Golden State win the final three games after trailing 2-1 in the series.
“He sacrificed his starting role … he had never come off the bench in his career,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Iguodala. “That set the tone for the entire season.”
Kerr boldly took Andrew Bogut out of the starting lineup and elected to insert his super-small lineup to begin Game 4. The 6-foot-7 Green started at center.
“That was a critical and determining factor in this series,” Cavs coach David Blatt said. “We sort of lost the pace battle, the game speeded up.”
Not only did Kerr make the move for pace purposes, Iguodala is also Golden State’s best wing defender.
“Guarding LeBron James has to be the hardest job in basketball,” Kerr said.
“You have to put so much effort not to stop him, but to contain him,” he said.
The 31-year-old swingman did just enough.
Iguodala, who poured in 22 points in the 102-83 Game 4 rout, averaged 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and four assists per game in his first NBA Finals appearance.
The first-year coach Kerr took over for Mark Jackson, who led Golden State to playoff appearances in two of his three years as the headman, but never got past the conference semis.
“I’ve been blessed to play for the greatest coaches ever. And I’ve learned a ton from them. They’ve all helped me get here. And I was blessed with an unbelievable group of guys in my first year. I can’t believe how lucky I am,” Kerr said.
James, meanwhile, will have to wait until next year to end the 51-year misery of title-starved Cleveland. The city’s three pro teams have gone a combined 144 seasons without winning a championship.
The losses of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love proved to be too much.
“We ran out of talent,” James said.
The All-Star guard Irving fractured his left knee cap in the Cavaliers’ 108-100 overtime loss in Game 1. Love separated his shoulder during Cleveland’s first-round series against the Boston Celtics.
“This would’ve been a different series with Kyrie and Kevin,” Kerr said.
James, who returned to Cleveland this season after winning a pair of NBA titles during a four-year stay in Miami, fell to 2-4 in his NBA Finals career.
“Doesn’t matter if I’m playing in Miami or playing in Cleveland or playing on Mars,” James said. “You lose in the finals, it’s disappointing.”
Cleveland, which trailed by as many as 15 in the second half, clawed back within 75-68 early in the fourth quarter when James got in the passing lane and flew down the floor for a one-handed dunk from just inside the right elbow.
But a barrage of Warriors 3-pointers followed, ensuring their first title since Rick Barry was shooting underhanded free throws in the Bay Area.
Curry nailed a right wing triple to extend the advantage back to 10, and three triples in a 1:20 span by Iguodala, Curry and Klay Thompson upped the margin to 89-75 with 6:45 to go.
The Cavs were back within 101-97 with 33.2 ticks remaining when J.R. Smith knocked down a 3, but Curry sunk a pair of foul shots, and treys in the waning moments by Smith and James were off the mark.
The Cavs raced out to a quick 7-2 start before Curry scored nine points during an 11-1 Warriors run to help them surge in front. He poured in the final seven points of the burst, including a scoop layup high off the glass for a 13-8 margin.
Golden State upped the advantage to 13 after netting the final eight points of the frame, with Curry finding Harrison Barnes for a left corner 3 to make it 23-15.
Golden State shot 54.5 percent (12-of-22) in the opening frame and led 28-15. It recorded 11 assists on 12 made field goals and scored 14 points off nine Cleveland turnovers.
The Warriors, however, missed 10 of their first 11 shots of the second as Cleveland clawed back in it with a 13-4 sprint. Tristan Thompson’s putback dunk with three seconds to go in the half brought the Cavs within 45-43 at the break.
The Warriors ripped off a 16-4 surge during the middle stages of the third quarter after Tristan Thompson’s short hook shot gave the Cavs their first lead, 47-45, since it was 8-6 in the opening frame.
Iguodala put in seven points during the game-changing flurry, including a fastbreak dunk off a Curry feed for a 61-51 Warriors cushion midway through the frame.
Golden State was up 73-61 at the end of three.
Green’s triple double was the Warriors’ fifth in playoff franchise history … Golden State scored 25 points off 19 Cleveland turnovers … The Warriors finished with 83 wins, the third-highest, single-season total. Only the 1995-96 and 1996-97 Chicago Bulls have won more games in a single year … Kerr is the fourth coach to win an NBA title after winning at least five as a player, joining Bill Russell, K.C. Jones and Tom Heinsohn … The Cavaliers shot 10 more free throws, finishing 27-of-39 from the charity stripe … Cleveland was held to 6-of-26 from beyond the arc … Timofey Mozgov had 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Tristan Thompson added 15 points and 13 boards.