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Well that should end any “officiating” discussion, right? Twenty-five Warriors fouls and 15 on Cleveland AT Oracle for Game 2. And it was the Warriors constantly going inside and apparently not drawing any contact (sarcasm intended). Plus the cool new move of Lebron grabbing Jordan Bell’s arm and then throwing him to the ground and getting a foul called on…Jordan Bell. Wow.
But enough of the preamble. The Warriors are a better team than Cleveland. They are a deeper team. They have more players that are able to do more things to win basketball games. And their best players self-evaluate and adjust wonderfully.
After a bit too much isolation basketball and a lack of attentiveness on the boards in Game 1, it was Kevin Durant basically playing perfect basketball. Ten-for-fourteen shooting, nine defensive rebounds, seven assists. The very best of KD over and over.
Draymond Green took on the challenge of guarding LeBron James and showed excellent restraint offensively. Seven assists, no turnovers, only four shots attempted. More importantly: LeBron James played 44 minutes and was -18 for his time on the floor. He put up numbers but had to work much more often vs. Draymond.
Klay Thompson injured? Never. That’s now 100 Warrior playoff games for Klay, the most in franchise history. There is a toughness to Klay that has to really be appreciated. Klay also was really efficient on 8-for-13 shooting.
Of course Steph Curry will get all the highlight love and his spectacular shooting was fully on display, but he won’t be happy with the 11-for-26 shooting despite the NBA Finals record nine made 3’s. A next level look at Curry reveals a tremendous rebounder for a point guard (seven boards). His eight assists were almost more important than his scoring. Most importantly, the Warriors feed off Steph’s energy and when he is rolling the Warriors follow suit.
Credit Steve Kerr with starting Javale McGee and changing the dynamic offensively. JaVale has been incredibly professional all year long, and it’s being rewarded on the highest stage. Have to be happy for him.
Shaun Livingston kills the Cavs. Always has. And he’s doing it again. Nine-for-nine and 20 points in the first two games. That extra double digit scorer is incredibly important in the Finals.
While 9-for-27 on 3’s isn’t great, there was a time in Game 2 when Cleveland was 8-for-17 on 3s. And they were 10-0 when shooting 33 percent in the post-season. So that ends that oddity.
The bottom line is the Warriors are never going to lose shooting 57 percent from the field and 41 percent on 3s. Seven Turnovers in Game 1 and only 12 turnovers in Game 2. It’s a math game. If the greatest shooting team in the world just gets shots instead of empty possessions, they are going to win.
But the work is halfway done. Games in Cleveland have been very difficult over the past four years. That home crowd is ferocious and the Cavs feed off it very well. Game 3 will be a desperate time for Cleveland. They need to have an amazing 3-point shooting night to beat the Warriors, and they are more than capable (see Game 4 a year ago).
As the scene shifts to the Midwest, the story line that will begin to build is LeBron’s future. Are these his last days in Cleveland? Will he choose LA and build on life after basketball? Is it Houston and a chance to take another shot at the Warriors? Or is he the final piece in Philadelphia and the beginning of a new run of dominance in the East as they battle the Celtics? Does it matter how the Cavs go out in these Finals as to a potential return to Cleveland?
LeBron is a basketball genius. And he knows this edition of the Cavs cannot beat the defending World Champions in four of the next five games. Game 2 was just a reminder of this very uncomfortable reality for Cleveland.