CLEVELAND — The Golden State Warriors launched some 8,900 shots this season. They attempted layups and 3-pointers, runners and elbow jumpers. They dazzled fans and overwhelmed opponents. But every time the ball left their fingertips, the Warriors seemed to be building toward something bigger and better, toward the brightest stage and the grandest prize.
The Warriors were chasing history, a journey they completed Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena with a 105-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the N.B.A. finals.
Golden State celebrated its first N.B.A. championship in 40 years when the final buzzer sounded, the players forming a frantic mob at center court as silence fell over the sellout crowd. The Warriors won the final three games of this best-of-seven series, countering every move that the Cavaliers made — and all the points, rebounds and assists that LeBron James could produce.
“Pure joy,” said Steve Kerr, the coach of the Warriors, who showed up to his news conference soaking wet, fresh off a champagne shower in the locker room.
Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala, who was named the finals’ most valuable player, scored 25 points each to lead the Warriors, who ensured that the pain in this championship-starved city will linger for a while longer. Cleveland has not won a major pro sports title since 1964, when the Browns won the N.F.L. championship by upsetting the heavily favored Baltimore Colts.
“Not every story has a happy ending,” said David Blatt, the coach of the Cavaliers. “It doesn’t mean it was a bad story. It was not. It was a good story.”
LeBron James, who returned to the Cavaliers last summer after four seasons with the Miami Heat, finished with 32 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists. He averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the series. He seldom sat, supplying at least 45 minutes in five of the games. (He played 41 in the other.)
“LeBron doesn’t have any weaknesses,” said Iguodala, who was his primary defender.
“We ran out of talent,” James said.
Tristan Thompson finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds for Cavaliers, and Timofey Mozgov added 17 points and 12 rebounds. But Matthew Dellavedova scored 1 point in 26 minutes, and J.R. Smith, who had a horrendous series, finished 5 of 15 from the field.
“We had 14 assists and I had 9 of them,” James said. “I don’t enjoy that. That’s not winning basketball.”
The Cavaliers showed life in the fourth. James intercepted a poor pass by Draymond Green and soared for a fast-break dunk that cut the lead to 7. But Curry came out of a timeout with a 3-pointer, and Iguodala later connected on one of his own to preserve a 10-point lead.
The Warriors endured some nervous moments in the final minute. After James scored on a driving layup, Smith hit a 3-pointer with 33.2 seconds left to cut the lead to 4. But the Warriors made enough free throws down the stretch. James checked out of the game to an ovation with 10.6 seconds remaining. He hugged Curry and shook hands with Kerr.
“If I could’ve gave more, I would’ve done it,” James said.
It was Warriors’ 83rd victory dating to the start of the regular season, and in many ways, it felt similar to the other 82: the same uptempo offense, the same defensive intensity.
Only the circumstances were different, as the Warriors sought to overcome their postseason futility — and found James, the best player on the planet, trying to impede their path.
If the result came with a small asterisk, given the Cavaliers’ depleted roster, injuries are an inescapable part of the N.B.A. The Warriors, though, somehow managed to remain healthy, their rotations intact, their bench playing well.
“We were fortunate in a lot of ways this year,” Kerr said, “and maybe No. 1 was health.”
“He saved this series for us,” Green said.
Throughout the season, the Warriors made basketball look fun, turning many of their games into performance art: part competition, part dance recital. The chief choreographer was Kerr, who guided the Warriors to a title in his first season with the team.
Kerr listened and delegated, constantly weighing the advice of his assistants and soliciting comment from his players. Indeed, it was Kerr’s personal assistant, Nick U’Ren, who suggested in the middle of the series that Kerr go small against Cleveland. And when the strategy worked, Kerr gave U’Ren the credit.
“He was very humble about how he was going to approach his job,” Curry said.
The Warriors made a habit of warming up for practice by launching court-length shots. Kerr pumped up the energy by filling the team’s practice facility with music. And there was a rhythm to the way the team toyed with opponents, the quick beat set by Curry, who pirouetted past screens and bounced around defenders, his buckets punctuated by yelps from his teammates on the bench. Curry connected on countless daredevil shots, but each somehow felt fresher and more inventive than the last.
Curry obliterated a league record by sinking 98 3-pointers in the playoffs as the Warriors marched to the title. (The old record was held by Reggie Miller, who made 58 3-pointers for the Indiana Pacers in 2000.)
No champion in the league’s history so effectively, and so frequently, used the 3-point shot. The Warriors attempted 2,217 of them during the regular season, the fourth-most in the N.B.A. But their approach was far from pure gluttony from beyond the arc. They blended quality with quantity, making a league-leading 39.8 percent of their 3-pointers.
Still, Kerr said it always bothered him that people paid so much attention to his team’s gaudy numbers on offense. The Warriors also had the league’s top-ranked defense.
“When you get that combination, then you’re going to be pretty good,” Kerr said. “Whether you’re shooting 2s or 3s, it’s about the balance.”
When Kerr joined his players and staff members on a stage at midcourt for the postgame press conference, he could hear the chants from 500-odd Warriors fans who had made the trip to Cleveland, he said. The sound traveled throughout an emptying arena.
But the Warriors remained, on top until the very end.
FOLLOW NEW AFRICA BUSINESS NEWS ON FACEBOOK @ New Africa Business News.com