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Cavs swept up by Hurricane Durant: a look back at the NBA Finals

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The beginning of June brings the start of many different phenomena. Consistent warm weather in Cleveland is one. Hurricane season is another.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans found out the hard way about hurricane season, running into Hurricane Durant throughout the NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors star player and Finals MVP Kevin Durant dominated the Cavaliers, averaging  35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game, as the Warriors won the series four games to one.

This series represented the third installment in a historic trilogy for the NBA; these two teams had already met in the previous two Finals. It’s the first time two teams have accomplished that feat in the history of the league. The Warriors took the first matchup in 2015 and the Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit to claim the title last season.

Rosters of the two juggernauts mostly stayed constant from the last time the two teams met in the championship round with one notable exception: The addition of Durant. The former League MVP created a “super-team” by joining the Warriors last summer in free agency. Since taking his talents to the Bay Area, no team in the league has been able to stop the Warriors, including the Cavs. During the majority of the series, he imposed his will on the smaller defenders tasked with the impossible challenge of defending him, shooting 55.6 percent from the field.

Of course, Cleveland did not lose the series only due to Durant’s efforts. In the first two games, which they lost by a combined 41 points, the Warriors beat them inside the paint and on the boards.  Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, normally a dominating force on the glass, collected just four rebounds in Game 1 and averaged 5.8 per game for the series.

Additionally, the Cavaliers’ role players didn’t contribute. Sharpshooting guard Kyle Korver made just 31 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and missed a crucial shot at the end of Game 3. J.R. Smith basically took the first two games off offensively, and Deron Williams looked like a shell of his former self.

However, the team’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving came through as expected. James became the first player to average a triple-double in the NBA Finals (33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) and recorded his record ninth triple-double in a Finals game. Irving averaged 29.4 points in the series, which included 38 and 40 point performances in Games 3 and 4. Love snagged 11.2 rebounds per game and added 16 points per game as well.

After losing the first two games in Oakland, the Cavaliers came back at home in Game 3 with a vengeance. They kept pace with the Warriors offense for most of the contest, trailing by just six at halftime and holding a five point lead going into the fourth quarter. It was in the fourth quarter that the Cavaliers seemed to fall apart. A Smith three-pointer with about three minutes to play gave the team a six point lead. It was at that point that the Warriors went on an 11-0 run to take the win away from their hosts.

With their backs against the wall, down 3-0 in the series, the Cavaliers used a historic first half to stave off elimination in Game 4. The team scored 49 points in the first quarter and 86 in the first half, both NBA Finals records, en route to a 137-116 win. Though no team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, the Cavaliers and their fans believed they could be the first.

That was not in the cards. The Warriors showed why they were the massive favorite to win the series with a 129-120 win in Game 5, that was not as close as the final score indicated. Though the Cavaliers trailed by as little as four points in the fourth quarter, the Warriors offense, led by Durant and Stephen Curry, proved too potent to handle. Though the team did not complete a perfect 16-0 post-season, they still brought themselves into the discussion as the greatest team of all time.

Though Cavaliers fans believed throughout the whole series that their team would defend their title, they knew it would take a Herculean effort to defeat the super team assembled in California. They take heart by repeating the old Cleveland mantra, “There’s always next year.”

They also take heart knowing James will come back with a plan to properly defend Cleveland against another hurricane coming up from California.

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Cavs swept up by Hurricane Durant: a look back at the NBA Finals