Warriors climb into NBA Finals after 40-year drought

The last time the Golden State Warriors reached the NBA Finals, they played in Daly City’s Cow Palace against the then-Washington Bullets. That was 40 years ago.

The memories of the 1975 NBA Championship are distant, and the 2014-15 Warriors on their way to making new ones.

With a 104-90 Game 5 win over the Houston Rockets Wednesday night, the Warriors became Western Conference Champions and will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he can’t help but feel overjoyed for the fans who have waited so long for this:

“Winning feels like a relief more than anything most of the time. But to get to the Finals, first time in 40 years for the Warriors, it’s more than relief, it’s joy. Our players are feeling it. I know our fans are. I’m happy for everybody, especially our fans. Forty years is a long time.”

The Rockets held the Warriors to just 22.2 percent shooting in the opening quarter of Houston’s fifth elimination game of this postseason. Golden State couldn’t hit anything and looked a half-step off on every play on both ends. Despite lack of efficiency and early miscues, the Warriors were only down by five points at the end of the first.

The Rockets should have known that keeping the Warriors from knocking down shots hasn’t proven to be a sustainable game plan. Stephen Curry finished with a game-high 26 points, Klay Thompson let loose in the second quarter for 13 of his 20 points, and Harrison Barnes broke away for 24 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter.

Curry told SFBay he is proud of the way his teammates have played and is confident the Warriors will bring a championship to Oakland:

“It’s just a proud moment for everybody in the Bay Area, just to be four wins away from our goal, and that’s a special feeling. We’ve got a week off to get ready and get our minds right and our game plan right for how we’re going to beat Cleveland. I’m excited about it.”

Curry is right, the Warriors are four wins away from an NBA Championship, but they will have to get through LeBron James and the Cavaliers to seize the title.

Since acquiring Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, and the emergence of Tristan Thompson, Cleveland has seen huge success that has carried them through the postseason with relative ease — sweeping the Celtics, losing twice to the Bulls and sweeping the Hawks.

Curry said getting past the LeBron-led Cavaliers won’t be an easy feat, but its one he and his team are ready for:

“He’s been there plenty of times before, five straight Finals appearances, so we’ve got to bring out A-game if we’re going to beat a great team and a great player like that four times. We’re excited about the challenge…we’re going to be fighting like crazy every night.”

Klay Thompson left the game in the fourth quarter after colliding with Trevor Ariza (knee to head). He was evaluated by the Warriors medical staff immediately after suffering a laceration to his right ear and was put through a concussion evaluation.  At the time he did not show any concussion-like symptoms. After the game he began to not feel well and developed concussion-like symptoms. He will continue to be evaluate by the team’s medical staff.

Notes

The Warriors will appear in the Finals for the seventh time in franchise history, facing the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time in their playoff history. … Golden State’s Steve Kerr and Cleveland’s David Blatt are the first head coaches to meet in the Finals in their first season as head coach since 1947 — the league’s first season. … Stephen Curry hit three threes to give him 27 for the series, setting a new NBA record for threes in a five-game playoff series. In the 2015 Playoffs, Curry has set the NBA record for three’s in a four-game series (20 vs. New Orleans), five-game series (27 vs. Houston) and six-game series (26 vs. Memphis). … James Harden finished with 14 points but turned the ball over 13 times, an NBA postseason record in a single game.


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