Flush from their breakthrough Game 4 victory, the Cleveland Cavaliers aimed to stave off elimination yet again in Game 5. They had done just that a year ago, facing a 3-1 Finals deficit to the Golden State Warriors they now trailed once again.

The Warriors, however, had a different outcome in mind. To reach it, they would need to vanquish their ghosts from 2016 and finish off Cleveland at Oracle Arena.

The Cavaliers came out of the gate humming with the same offensive electricity that sparked their Game 4 victory. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving scored 12 points apiece in the first quarter, leading a Cleveland offense that seemingly could not miss.

The Warriors were not as fortunate from the field, but kept themselves within striking difference thanks to 14 free throw attempts -- double the amount that Cleveland enjoyed.

Cleveland's first quarter shot chart
Golden State's first quarter shot chart

After falling behind by eight, the Warriors stormed ahead with a 21-2 scoring run in the second quarter. Their lead ballooned to 17 points, threatening to blow the game -- and the series -- away for good.

Cleveland responded by slowly chipping away before halftime, and the game itself became chippy as a result. Three technical fouls were handed out after an altercation between Warriors forward David West and Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson.

By the time the dust settled for intermission, Golden State still led, 71-60, thanks in large part to 41 combined points from Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

The Cavaliers continued to fight their way back into the game, attacking the rim again and again. Kyrie Irving put on yet another dazzling display of dribble penetration while scoring another 10 points in the third quarter.

LeBron James also did all he could in Game 5, putting up six points, six rebounds and five assists in the third quarter.

Curry responded early in the fourth quarter with his own array of moves, scoring or assisting on nearly every basket while Durant rested on the bench.

Cleveland continued to stay within striking distance despite an in-game injury to Kyrie Irving, who missed all six of his shots in the fourth quarter.

JR Smith made up for it by turning in his best shooting performance of the playoffs, shooting 7-for-8 on 3-pointers in Game 5.

Durant, however, proved why he was "the difference" (as James had dubbed him earlier in the series). Golden State's biggest offseason addition dunked, shot and willed his team toward the finish line, ultimately finishing with 39 points in the Warriors' 129-120 victory.

Durant's performance earned him the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award and his first NBA title just five years after losing to James (then with the Miami Heat) on the same NBA Finals stage.

The Cavaliers must now grapple with the reality of their 4-1 defeat despite James being the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in The Finals. Will they reload the same core for next season? Or will changes take place to pose a better challenge to what James termed a "juggernaut" in Golden State?

As for Golden State, they have now won two NBA championships and won more games than any team in league history over the last three years. With four All-Stars all under the age of 30, the question now becomes: how many more titles will they win before their run is done?




Warriors win series 4-1

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