After the 113-91 blow out win in game one, I did not see a need for the panic button. There was no need to burn the game plan; the rotation did not need an overhaul and the path they needed to walk for a victory in the series was still clear. Crowding the three-point line, playing big when they forced Golden State into the paint while on the offensive side, LeBron James diced up the defense with spacing given by having J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver and Kyrie Irving on the perimeter. But above all, as a gambler, being against James is a lackluster task that is always daunting because he is the best player in the world.
I had the optimistic, do not sleep on the King, against the grain article ready, but then game two happened. The Warriors became the first NBA team ever to hold a 14-0 playoffs mark after routing the Cleveland Cavaliers 132-113 on Sunday. The Cavs gave the Warriors, what may be their best shot on the road, and got blown out as a result.
Through roughly 2 1/2 quarters, the Cavs kept things tight, drawing within one at 61-60, staying at three to six points of the home team for over half the game.
Then the barrage came, the separation started, and the defense for the Cavs could not handle the weapons thrown at them.
LeBron had a triple-double (29,11,14) while Kevin Love had 27 points and Irving had 19 points and seven assists. But it was not enough to keep the opposition in check for a game, as the Warriors never seemed out of control or on their heels. Stephen Curry cruised to a triple-double of his own (32/10/11) while Kevin Durant played inspiring defense and Klay Thompson had his first solid game of the postseason. Plenty to dive into with only two games in the books, but this is my best attempt to prepare you for the rest of the series.
Curry and Durant are hitting their stride at the same time, and it is terrifying. Durant followed up a game one 38-point performance with an all-around game that was sound on both ends, racking up 33 points, 13 rebounds, paired with three steals and five blocks. Curry backed up 28 points in game one with his triple-double to keep pace with LeBron. These two are peaking together and it is special to watch. Secondly, the Cavaliers are starting three players. Tristan Thompson and Smith are gone on offense and pushovers on defense. Thompson has no edge on defense and has given this Cleveland squad no advantage in the paint. To put it into perspective, he has eight rebounds to Curry’s 16 so far. Smith is having the same problem. He is not making, or even taking, shots and is a no-show on defense.
Finally, what it all comes down to is pacing. The Cavs are trying to keep up with the Warriors pace and transition game, which plays right into Golden State’s hand. When the Cavs have had success against this team in Finals past, it was when they forced the game into half-court ball. Right now they are playing the length of the court, and the Warriors are taking advantage of all the space.
The Cavaliers need to slow the pace of the game way down and try to keep this from a transition massacre. They also need the Kyrie Irving that could score whenever he wanted to in the Celtics series and pulled up from anywhere on the court, most importantly scoring more than 19 points on 23 shots (see game two). On defense, Tristan Thompson has to be a monster on the glass and be the edge for the Cavs in the paint. J.R. should probably ride some pine while Iman Shumpert gets some floor time to try and give the defense teeth.
For the Warriors, they need to keep up the pace, let Durant and Curry make the most of the transition chaos and the third player will always get hot. In game one, Draymond Green had 10 rebounds and 11 assists despite a meager nine points, making plays all over on defense. In game two, Thompson busted out of his playoff slump with a 22-point game, shooting 4-7 from deep. This team is hot and has too much talent to be derailed from the current trajectory.
The Warriors are attempting to make up for a title-less 73-win season with a 16-0 playoff run. They have too much talent to go without a ring this season, as the Cavs went more offensive last offseason to try and keep up with the Durant signing. Their defense cannot control the game and the advantage of that, with the upgrade at small forward via Durant, has all the cards coming up Warriors. The Golden State squad takes ring two in five games.