CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The NBA champion Golden State Warriors proved on Tuesday that an age-old mantra — you have to learn to lose before you can win — doesn’t apply to them.
The inexperienced Warriors beat a LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers team to win the championship despite a roster that did not include one player with any NBA Finals experience.
Golden State are the first team to win a title behind a roster without any previous Finals experience since the 1991 Chicago Bulls. And Steve Kerr is the first rookie coach to win an NBA title since the Los Angeles Lakers’ Pat Riley in 1982.
“Every year is so different,” Kerr told reporters. “A lot is based on matchups and injuries and maybe a little good fortune. We had good fortune with our health most of the year, and that was big.”
The championship series had plenty of sub-plots, including reigning league Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry up against two-time champion James as well as it being a clash of franchises looking to end decades-long title droughts.
But the best-of-seven series was also one of inexperience versus experience, and in the pressure-cooker environment that is the NBA playoffs, the latter tends to prevail.
The Warriors, however, displayed the demeanor of a team that competed on the game’s biggest stage several times before, bending at times but refusing to break en route to capturing the Oakland-based franchise’s first NBA title since 1975.
“We have a lot of different personalities ... but the common denominator is guys were like really hungry to show what they can do individually,” said NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Andre Iguodala.
“When you get all those guys together and say we’re going to do it together as a team, that’s an awesome formula for what we put together tonight, and that is a championship.”
After splitting the first two games of the championship series on their home court, the Warriors went to Cleveland and promptly fell behind in the series 2-1 as their usual potent offense lost its punch.
Kerr made a bold change to his lineup for Game Four when he gave Iguodala his first start of the season.
The steely veteran led the way in a pivotal victory that reinvigorated the deadly run-and-gun offense that had defined the Warriors all season.
Led by sharp-shooting guard Curry, the Warriors dominated the regular season and were barely tested as they captured a league-best 67 wins out of 82 games.
By comparison, the Cavaliers were an exhausted and banged-up team in the Finals but they were led the whole way by James, one of the most polarizing figures in NBA history.
Even James had to lose before he won, having fallen short in his first trip to the NBA Finals with Cleveland in 2007, where they lasted a minimum four games to a veteran San Antonio team.
James finally won a championship in 2012 after joining a Miami Heat team stocked with talent.
The Warriors’ road to the Finals was made somewhat easier after the 2014 champion San Antonio Spurs, a potential opponent in the Western Conference finals, lost in the opening round of the playoffs, while Cleveland were without their second and third-best players.
“Things went our way, but we took advantage of that. Every year that’s the case. A team fails, a team soars, there’s injuries, bounce of the ball, whatever,” said Kerr.
“In the end, none of it matters. The only thing that matters is that we got the job done.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty