It will take some time to put all my thoughts on the Warriors’ World Championship together, but for now, here are my impressions of Game 6:
David Blatt’s game: I thought he had a great initial gameplan. I liked him taking Mozgov out and playing small in Game 5, because both he and Mozgov were completely unprepared for the Warriors double-teaming. Obviously, he had to come back to Mozgov in this game, because the Cavs were just too short-handed and exhausted to make it through four quarters without him. And Blatt had a game-plan in place for Mozgov to wait out the double teams, and find the open man at the three point line.
But: he left Mozgov in the game for too long in the fourth quarter, and ate the two Curry threes that put the game out of reach as a result. The run-down Russian could no longer execute the blitz.
It was a great idea to have LeBron conserve his energy in the first half, and concentrate on setting up his teammates. When the Cavs ended the half down only two, I thought that was a huge win for them, and expected a monster second half from LeBron. But both he and his team hit a brick wall.
Blatt finally made the adjustment on Curry that I viewed as inevitable once Steve Kerr started letting Curry isolate Delly. Limited Delly’s minutes, and got Shumpert on him as much as possible. But Curry responded with one of the most accomplished games as a point guard and distributor of his career.
I liked what I saw from David Blatt in this series. And I think I’ll like what I see from him next season.
As Steve Kerr’s right hand man.
Stephen Curry: Fans will remember those two big threes he hit in the fourth quarter. I will remember how he literally picked apart the Cavs’ blitz. In Game 5, when the Cavs first turned the blitz level up to white hot, Curry struggled with 5 TOs against 4 assists. In this game, perhaps with Coach Gentry’s assistance, he looked like the living, breathing reincarnation of Steve Nash I have always thought he could be. Not a point guard?
His performance in this game, getting the ball to the right place at the right time, for 42 minutes, on the road in a closeout game, against an absolutely ferocious blitz by the best defensive team in these playoffs, put the lie to that. Stephen Curry, MVP, World Champion, will go down as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history.
Draymond Green: I don’t want to take anything away from Iggy, but I would have no problem giving the Finals MVP to Draymond. So fitting that he finished this series, and this incredible season, with a triple double.
Amazing intelligence, amazing talent. But most important, the biggest heart I have ever seen on a basketball court. Don Nelson would have given his right arm to coach him.
How many seasons can he last playing this many minutes against players so much bigger than he is? Doesn’t matter now, does it? That’s a question for next season.
This is what matters now: He put his team on his back, and carried them to a championship.
Andre Iguodala: Once he was inserted into the starting lineup, the Cavs ran out of defenders didn’t they? One for Curry, one for Klay, wait, we have to cover Iggy too?
A well-deserved Finals MVP. The cool veteran for whom the moment was never too big. Settled his team on both ends, by accepting the challenge on LeBron, and filling the Warriors’ desperate need for a third scorer. The lone Warrior who could explode through the Cavs on the fast break. The lone Warrior who could get to the rim in the half-court.
One of the great Nellieball wings in the league, who struggled in an unfamiliar role and an alien system for all of the regular season.
Finally unleashed when it counted most.
Festus Ezeli: With Bogut, Lee and Speights all unable to contribute, stepped onto the big stage. And delivered.
Kerr finally ran some pick and roll for him, and he looked good playing it. And he finally got his feet under him and went nose to nose with the Cavs fearsome front line. His defense, intelligence, and speed up and down the court make him a natural to play with this team for years to come.
After sacrificing his health (along with David Lee) to the Andrew Bogut Experiment, it was incredibly gratifying to see Festus have this moment.
Throw it down, big fella!
Shaun Livingston: I’ve written a lot about Livingston as a point guard in Steve Kerr’s system, and I stand by those opinions.
But in the end, the Warriors never needed a back-up point guard. They needed a small forward whom Steve Kerr could trust in the fourth quarter of the Finals.
And they got one.
Steve Kerr, Ron Adams, Alvin Gentry: You can divide the credit as you see fit. Steve Kerr is obviously a savant as a head coach, as a leader of men, an executive, a spokesman. As a strategist for a season, and a tactician for a game. He was lucky in his roster, yes, but he also took it apart and put it back together in a way that added 16 regular season wins. And then in the playoffs he took it apart again and put it back together in a way that won a championship.
I could not be happier, in retrospect, that he was chosen for the job. And I could not be more excited to watch this team play under him for many years to come. He’s the coach, finally, finally, that this roster deserves.
We’ve heard throughout the season about the contributions of Ron Adams. The true test of a coach is the playoffs, and in this championship run the Warriors faced several different defensive puzzles, and responded with several different lineups and several different gameplans. Ron Adams nailed it every single time.
I’m not sure how much to credit Alvin Gentry with the Warriors’ increased pace this season. With running after made baskets for the first time since Don Nelson. For the Warriors’ emphasis on threes, and particularly early offense threes. For playing Nellieball with a stretch-four, from Game 1, minute 1 of the regular season, to the final minute of Game 6 of the Finals. Or for the Warriors’ emphasis on a high pick and roll system for much of these Finals. I will just note that he’s a master of all of these things, and that the Warriors came into this season with Bob Myers talking about playing big whenever possible, and Steve Kerr talking about the triangle.
I saw a tweet near the end of the game. Very simple, a quiet thought: “The Pelicans will be better next year.”
Yes, they will. Nellieball and Pick and Roll are coming to the Big Easy, coming for the best running big man in the NBA.
Good luck, Head Coach Alvin Gentry, looking forward to some wars.
And thank you.