Golden State Warriors: Who To Blame For NBA Finals Loss

Jun 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) go after a loose ball during the third quarter in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) go after a loose ball during the third quarter in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Warriors lost the NBA Finals after a 3-1 series lead. Who is most responsible for their collapse?

The Cleveland Cavaliers won Game 7 of the NBA Finals 93-89 to bring Northeast Ohio its first title since 1964. The Golden State Warriors continued their collapse after gaining a 3-1 lead in the series.

While many people had a hand in the result, here are the top 10 contributors for the Warriors’ Finals loss:

10. J.R. Smith: Smith’s contribution to Game 7 was a stretch early in the third when the Cavaliers grabbed onto a widening lead and slammed it shut. He hit back-to-back three-pointers, then keyed a steal that led to a Kyrie Irving fast break layup.

Smith also (unintentionally) was the agent of Andrew Bogut’s knee injury that took the Warriors’ starting center out of commission back in Game 5.

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9. Klay Thompson: Klay had a terrible Game 7, shooting 2-for-10 from long range and 6-for-17 overall. He also made fun of LeBron James through the media, stoking the fire that James then unleashed on the Warriors in Games 5 and 6.

He isn’t higher on this list because without his heroics earlier in the playoffs, Golden State wouldn’t have made it this close anyway.

8. Joe Lacob: Lacob deserves a lot of credit for putting in place smart, progressive thinkers who have put together a great roster and organizational philosophy.

The problem is that he gave himself that credit, most notably in an ill-fated New York Times interview where he put the Warriors “light-years” ahead of any other team. Whether you believe in basketball gods, bulletin board material, or just bad taste, Lacob crossed a line.

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7. Festus Ezeli: In last year’s Finals, the Warriors pulled Andrew Bogut from the rotation in starting the “Death Lineup,” leaving Ezeli as the lone true center in the last three games.

Coming into this year, Ezeli was supposed to take up the mantle of best center on this team, ready to sign a long-term deal this summer and take Bogut’s starting place next year.

Instead, his injuries and inconsistent play left Kerr constantly cycling for answers, from Marreese Speights to Anderson Varajao and even James Michael McAdoo. The Ezeli from last year would have bottled up Tristan Thompson and won the Warriors this series.

6. Tristan Thompson: Speaking of Thompson, he was phenomenal in the entire series, including Game 7. Anytime he switched onto Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson he held his own, moving his feet and refusing to bite on pump fakes.

Other than Game 7 he gobbled up the offensive glass, resetting possession after possession. Last offseason many analysts decried the need to re-sign Tristan Thompson with Timofey Mozgov, Anderson Varajao and Kevin Love around. Those people most likely feel foolish now.

5. Steph Curry: The MVP of the league didn’t have the magic needed to close out this series. Other than very, very short bursts of shot-making, Steph Curry couldn’t score enough points to pull out the win.

When the game was on the line, Curry called his own number and the game-tying three-pointer bounced off of the rim. On defense, Curry made miscues throughout the series, eroding the positive defensive impact he made during the regular season.

Curry had his moments, but they weren’t the moments we expected to see, and not what his team needed from him in the end.

4. Harrison Barnes: Some could argue that Barnes deserves to be higher on this list. He shot 5-for-32 over the last three games of the series, missing wide open shots and dunk attempts. If he hits one more shot in Game 7 everything could have been different.

But to crucify Barnes for his offense is to ignore his defense, as he shut down Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson at times, both much larger players than himself.

When he was matched up on Thompson he almost always boxed him out, something Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut struggled to do. Barnes played his heart out — he just couldn’t hit a shot when the Warriors needed it the most.

3. Kyrie Irving: Shot after shot after shot went in for Uncle Drew in the last three games of the series. He hit pull-up 30-footers, high-arcing floaters, banked-in layups. Almost always he had a defender’s hand draped in his face.

It didn’t matter, as Kyrie Irving poured in points on the biggest stage. On defense he put in all the effort he had, making up for his lack of ability on that end of the floor.

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His play drove the Cavaliers over the hump to win the title this year; it also makes one wonder what might have happened last year if Irving had stayed healthy.

2. Donatas Montiejunas: No, Montiejunas did not play in the NBA Finals. But he did trip and fall back in Game 4 of the Western Conference first round, leaving behind a trail of sweat as he slid across the floor. Stephen Curry, unaware, then sprained his knee when he slipped on the sweat.

Even though he came back well before the Finals, Curry was never the same after his injury, as his lateral mobility and explosion towards the hoop were missing from his game all series long.

Even with the knee injury Curry was capable of greatness — he showed that in stretches against Portland and Oklahoma City — but against the Cavaliers, Curry’s injury kept him from taking advantage of switches and openings in the defense.

Without Donatas Montiejunas and his sweaty back, this series would have gone the other way, without a doubt.

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1. LeBron James: Last year LeBron did not deserve the MVP award many said he should receive; this year no player in NBA history may have deserved it more.

LeBron was dominant throughout the NBA Finals, especially the 41 points he dropped in back-to-back games and the triple double of Game 7. James was just the third player in NBA history to put up a triple double in a Game 7, alongside James Worthy and Jerry West.

West himself could only watch from the Warriors’ sideline as LeBron took over the game on both ends of the court. His chasedown block of Andre Iguodala at the end of Game 7 will go down as one of the greatest defensive plays in NBA history.

LeBron James was not the only reason the Warriors lost, but he was certainly the biggest one. All Hail the King.