OAKLAND -- In the flurry of confetti floating among them, in the chants of "MVP! MVP! MVP!" directed at Stephen Curry, and in the overwhelming adulation and energy that filled Oracle Arena Monday as they celebrated another NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors stood at the pinnacle of the NBA -- and perhaps higher than any NBA team has ever stood before.
In pushing back the Cleveland Cavaliers, , the Warriors expelled the demons of last year's collapse and avenged themselves against as worthy an opponent as they are likely to face for some time. And in doing so, thrust aside in LeBron James a star who may be the greatest player of all time but who nevertheless has found his match, not in a better player but in an unbeatable team.
With Kevin Durant fully melded to last year's 73-win regular season juggernaut, the Warriors are simply too good. Durant had 39 points on 14-of-20 shooting. Steph Curry doped 34 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Draymond Green had 12 rebounds, Andre Iguodala had 20 points, and an offensively quiet Klay Thompson played dogged and critical defense all night long, on players including Kyrie Irving and LeBron.
This team is simply too much.
Consider: LeBron James had 41 points, shot 63 percent from the field -- 63 percent! -- on 19-of-30 shooting, had 13 rebounds, added eight assists (including seven in the second half), and answered the know-nothing critics who pretend he still can't handle the big moments by willing his way to 14 points in the fourth quarter alone.
And he had help. Kyrie Irving had 26, J.R. Smith had the best playoff game of his life with 25 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the three-point line, and though Kevin Love hardly scored he was an active rebounder and burst of energy throughout the game. Tristan Thompson added 15 and eight.
The Cavs shot 53 percent from the field and 46 percent on threes, and they were still utterly outgunned and overwhelmed.
That's because the Warriors are probably the best team in NBA history.
The quick and easy reaction is to scream that Golden State, by losing in Cleveland in Game 4, lost its hold on going 16-0 in the playoffs, history and therefore its claim to being better than Michael Jordan's 1996 Chicago Bulls, 72-win, championship squad.
Here's the problem with that logic: That Bulls team lost two games to the Seattle Supersonics, not one. And that Bulls team had the man who would go on to become the greatest player of all time. The Warriors, on the other hand, just beat this generation's version of that guy. Again.
The true depth of the Warriors' place in history is likely just beginning to unfold, and at great expense to the parity in the NBA and the sport itself. Yes, the Lakers-Celtics rivalry of the 1980s was fun. But both teams had a chance in those showdowns. It is unclear if any team going forward had a real chance in the years ahead.
Durant is just beginning to bond with this team and play Warriors' basketball. Curry shifted his game to accommodate Durant, upping his career marks of 6.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game in this series to 9.4 assists and eight rebounds per game. Oh, and he finally looked like last year's regular-season Steph Curry, only with Durant by his side.
Draymond Green had only a so-so Finals, but that's unlikely to be true in next year's Finals, or 2019, or 2020 -- all series the Warriors will be heavily, heavily favored to win. They're already the darlings of Vegas for next season.
Klay Thompson has become an elite perimeter defender -- or maybe he always was, and it's on starker display with Durant carrying more of the offense -- and he, too, will likely be better offensively in the playoffs ahead. Even as he was inefficient in his shooting, his presence and impact was felt everywhere.
With Thompson under contract for two more years, Green a Warrior for three more seasons and Durant reportedly willing to take less money to lock them in, the future belongs not to LeBron James and his utter greatness but more likely to a team now too good for his prodigious basketball powers.
The Warriors' greatness is just beginning. And they start from a place that most likely, when we look back years from now, will be considered that of the greatest team in NBA history.