Sunday, May 28

Golden State advances to NBA finals


SAN FRANCISCO — After a two-year playoff absence, the Warriors are back in the NBA Finals.

This marks Golden State’s sixth trip to the title series in eight years, making the Warriors one of four NBA teams to accomplish such a feat and the first franchise to do it since the Michael Jordan-led Bulls in the 90s.

A 4-1 series victory over the Dallas Mavericks capped off by a 120-110 win on Thursday at the Chase Center came after many had written the team off.

Following Klay Thompson’s career-altering injury and Kevin Durant’s departure after a 2019 NBA Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors, Golden State finished with the worst record in the league in 2020. The next season, an injury to Stephen Curry compelled the Warriors to shift their focus to the future, developing the next generation of players in hopes to squeeze out another championship run with this core.

Still, there were persistent doubts the Warriors would ever make it back to this stage.

Most preseason rankings had Golden State finishing somewhere in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference. FiveThirtyEight gave the team a .5% chance at making the NBA Finals.

The Warriors beat those odds and exceeded expectations all while navigating a season riddled with injuries to their trio of stars, leaving coach Steve Kerr to put it all together in real-time during the postseason.

The Warriors handled back-to-back league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets in five games in the first round and then took out the young, on-the-rise Grizzlies and Ja Morant in the second round in six games.

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In the Western Conference finals, Golden State defeated the Mavericks and Luka Dončić, one of the league’s brightest rising stars.

The Warriors have some up-and-coming perennial stars of their own, including Jordan Poole and Moses Moody, two key pieces of the future who put their skills on display in this series.

The Warriors got to the NBA Finals with their dynastic core leading the way Thursday night.

Thompson erupted for 32 points, making eight 3-pointers after being quiet for most of this series. In fact, Thompson had more points in the first two quarters of this game (19) than the first half of his four previous games combined. At one point in the second quarter, Thompson shimmied at the gold-clad Chase Center crowd after draining a 3-pointer, forcing Mavericks coach and Bay Area basketball legend Jason Kidd to call a timeout.

Then, in the fourth quarter with about two minutes left, Curry hit a 3-pointer corner that brought the home crowd to his feet. He had 15 points and nine assists.

Curry, a top candidate for the Western Conference finals MVP, averaged 26 points while shooting 47.1% from deep in the first five games of the series. He also dished out seven assists and grabbed 7.5 rebounds per game against Dallas heading into Thursday night.

Draymond Green finished with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting and delivered nine assists. And Kevon Looney and Andrew Wiggins posted double-doubles. Looney had 10 points and a game-high 18 rebounds and Wiggins had 18 and 10.

The Warriors led by 17 points at the half and held on from there, despite a late third quarter

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After Golden State led by 23 points, the Mavericks ended the third quarter with a 14-2 rally to pull with 10 points.

But the Warriors proved to be too much for the Mavericks.

Dončić led the Mavericks with 28 points, and Spencer Dinwiddie added 26 off the bench.

The Warriors remain perfect at home this postseason, improving to 9-0. They will enjoy a week off before hosting Game 1 of the NBA Finals on June 2, where they’ll play the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between the Celtics and Heat.

Boston currently owns a 3-2 series lead over Miami.


www.mercurynews.com

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