CLEVELAND -- One year after winning their first-ever NBA Championship in seven games against the Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost the trilogy meeting in the 2017 NBA Finals in just five games.
But despite their exit from The Finals, Cavaliers small forward LeBron James contends the team was not overmatched by the star-studded Warriors, who acquired one of the top players in the NBA in free agency last season, small forward Kevin Durant.
“Not one time did I feel like we were overmatched until probably like I looked up, there was like a minute 20, and we were down 13, I believe, or something at that point,” James said. “I was like, ‘Okay, we left everything on the floor and it still wasn't enough.’”
Courtesy of a 129-120 victory over the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals, the Warriors earned their third title since the franchise relocated to the Bay Area in 1962 and fifth overall in front of the home fans at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California Monday night.
On the way to his first NBA Championship, Durant scored 39 points on 14-of-20 shooting, including a five-of-eight performance from three-point range, to go along with seven rebounds, five assists and one steal.
Additionally, the Warriors got double-digit scoring efforts from shooting guard Stephen Curry (34 points), shooting guard Klay Thompson (11), power forward Draymond Green (10) and reserve forward Andre Iguodala (20).
Durant averaged 35.2 points over the five-game series against the Cavaliers.
“They assembled a great team,” James said. “We were able to get them last year, and they went out and got one of the best players that this league has ever seen, so they did a good job of -- a great job, their front office and their players, by doing that recruiting, the things that they did in the summertime, and obviously, it paid dividends.”
Following the Game 5 loss, where he converted 19 of his 30 attempts from the field en route to a game-high 41 points and added 13 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one blocked shot over 46 minutes of play, James called Golden State “a worthy opponent,” one loaded with talented players under the age of 30.
As such, James expects the Warriors to remain near the top of the NBA for the foreseeable future.
“As far as that team, they're going to be here for a while,” James said. “They're going to be around for a while. Pretty much all their guys are in their 20s. Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don't show any signs of slowing down.
“There's going to be a lot of teams that’s trying to figure out ways to put personnel together to try and match that if they're able to actually face them in the Playoff series, both Eastern Conference and Western Conference because from my eyes, they're built to last a few years.”