Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors talks with Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks after the 120-110 win to advance to the NBA Finals in Game Five of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Finals at Chase Center on May 26, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (AFP)
Klay Thompson scored a game-high 32 points and the Golden State Warriors advanced to the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight seasons by defeating Dallas 120-110 on Thursday.
The Warriors won the best-of-seven Western Conference finals 4-1 and will seek a first title since 2018 in June’s showdown against either the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat.
“To get back again is special for all of us,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s pretty amazing. It’s so difficult to get to the finals. It’s exhausting, stressful, emotional, all that stuff.
“To be in the finals six times in eight years, it just takes an enormous amount of skill and determination and work and I couldn’t be prouder of my guys.”
Golden State won NBA crowns in 2015, 2017 and 2018 — beating the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers each time — but lost the 2016 and 2019 finals and spent the past two seasons rebuilding the roster.
“This is a blessing for us to get back here, to get back where we belong,” said Golden State’s Stephen Curry, named the Western Conference playoff Most Valuable Player.
Thompson, completing an amazing comeback story after two missed seasons and years of injury rehabilitation, made 12-of-25 shots from the floor and 8-of-16 from 3-point range.
“Such a surreal feeling,” Thompson said. “I dreamt about this every day. I’m elated, but I’m still hungry. It’ll be much sweeter if we complete the mission next round.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Warriors while Draymond Green added 17 points and nine assists, reserve Jordan Poole scored 16 points and Curry added 15 and nine assists.
The Warriors have not lost a home playoff game this season, the first post-season run in their new arena after two woeful campaigns.
“It’s special to do it in our new building,” Curry said. “This isn’t the ultimate goal but we’ve got to celebrate this for all we went through the past three years.”
The dynasty continues.
“This one is special because this is a group no one thought would ever be back here,” Green said. “After being counted out — ‘dynasty is over’ — to get back is fantastic.”
It will be the sixth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals for Thompson, who missed the entire 2019-20 campaign after left knee surgery and the whole 2020-21 season with a torn Achilles tendon.
“It’s hard not to be most excited for Klay after what he went through,” Kerr said. “Incredible accomplishment.”
Matching Jordan’s Bulls
Not since the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls won six crowns from 1991-1998 has a team reached six NBA Finals in eight seasons. Kerr played on the last three of those Bulls’ title squads.
“The common denominator is just talented players who are just fierce competitors,” Kerr said. “It takes a special kind of athlete to have both dynamics, to be especially competitive and want to win so badly.
“If you don’t have that competitiveness and skill combined, it won’t happen six times in eight years.”
The Mavericks haven’t reached the NBA Finals since winning the crown in 2011.
Slovenian star guard Luka Doncic had 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists to lead Dallas while reserve Spencer Dinwiddie added 26 points.
“I played terrible,” Doncic said. “We fought until the end. I’m really proud of this team.”
The Mavs upset top seed Phoenix in the second round.
“We just had a bad night at the wrong time. It doesn’t mean we had a bad season,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “We’ve laid a foundation. Now we can start building.”
Thompson scored eight points in a 12-5 run to put Golden State ahead 45-32 on the way to a 69-52 half-time lead.
Early in the third quarter, Green delivered a spectacular no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass to Thompson for a wide-open 3-pointer that gave Golden State a 74-53 lead.
“I was thinking, ‘I had better make this so it will be on the highlights later,’” Thompson said.
A 15-0 run pulled Dallas within 92-84 late in the third quarter but Golden State opened the fourth with a 7-1 run and held off Dallas from there.
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