- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Thank goodness Golden State rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City.

Nothing against the Thunder and their A-list stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals was the desire here. The Thunder would’ve spoiled the party and ruined an historic run by the 73-win Warriors.

Worst of all, we’d be deprived of the unbridled joy and fascination in watching the “Splash Brothers” do their remarkable thing.

Stephen Curry is the unanimous MVP and scored a game-high 36 points Monday in Game 7, but the Warriors’ season would’ve ended two days earlier if not for Klay Thompson. As a giddy Oklahoma City crowd envisioned confetti falling later that night, Thompson put the Warriors on his back and went off for 41 points, including a playoff-record 11 3-pointers.

The Thunder scored 18 points in the fourth quarter; Thompson had 19 by himself. His outburst clearly inspired a struggling Curry, who used the lift to score 22 of his 31 points in the second half.

That’s what brothers are for, picking up one another and protecting each other’s back. With Curry and Thompson swishing 3-pointers all over the court, the Warriors have the most formidable tandem of backcourt marksmen in memory. Or maybe period.

“Klay and Steph are probably the two greatest shooters that we’ve probably ever seen,” Cleveland’s LeBron James told reporters on Tuesday. “Obviously, in today’s game, they are. Some of the shots, there’s nothing that you can do about it. Better offense beats great defense any day.

“It’s hard to contain them,” he said. “We all know that, the whole league knows that, our team knows that. But, we have a game plan and we have to follow it and be true to it.”

James is in much better position than last season as he attempts to capture his third NBA Finals trophy. His Cavaliers were severely out-manned, missing two of their Big Three in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Irving in particular was a huge loss, going down late in Game 1 when he had 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks.

Without Irving and Love — whose shoulder injury in the first round ended his postseason — the Cavaliers were lucky to steal two games while giving Matthew Dellavedova extended minutes. Cleveland is playing its best ball of the season at the moment, with first-year coach Tyronn Lue showing us why he was promoted.

Any match-up besides Golden State and Cleveland would’ve been a huge disappointment. It gives us arguably the two best players on the planet, James and Curry, whose differences in size and style reflect the basketball evolution that the Warriors are leading.

The movement was questioned as Oklahoma City won three of the first four games and pounded Golden State on the boards with big men Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Enes Kantor. The Warriors’ small-ball lineup, led by its smallish MVP, looked frail and feeble, overpowered and outmatched.

But then they remembered who they are and played accordingly.

Thompson revisited the zone he erected on Jan. 22 when he scored an NBA-record 37 points in a single quarter. Curry reminded everyone that he’s the league’s most sensational, scintillating and stupefying performer. Coach Steve Kerr regained his acumen and made all the right moves in Game 6, when he started Andre Iguodala in the second half for the first time all season, and in Game 7, when Iguodala started his first playoff game since last year’s Finals.

Simply put, it’s more enjoyable to watch the Warriors play compared to any other team.

It’s more fun to wonder what Curry will do next or see how Thompson will redefine “hot.” We can do without Draymond Green kicking opponents in the crotch, but the entire team brings a level of excitement and anticipation that can move even the most jaded basketball observers.

Just in case an NBA-record 73 wins wasn’t enough, Golden State became only the 10th team out of 234 to face a 3-1 series deficit and advance.

Their improbable campaign added another layer and we can’t get enough.

“I knew we were ready for the moment,” Curry said after Game 7. “We were a mature basketball team that tried our best not to listen to the noise outside — when six or seven days ago we’re down 3-1 and everybody thought the wheels were falling off and it was kind of the end of our run.

“But in that locker room, the talk was positive. “It was, “Let’s figure this out; let’s go out and take it one game at a time and claw our way back into the series and see what happens.’ We followed that kind of mindset these last three games.”

For that, we’re eternally grateful. We’re relishing their success almost as much the players themselves.

Thank you, Warriors.

You didn’t give up and we’re all better off for it.

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