Mark Bacon—Main Event Sports DC
After a Game 1 thriller, the Warriors led wire-to-wire and earned a 122-103 win to take a 2–0 series lead in the Finals on Sunday. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant all scored over 20 points, while LeBron James put up 29 in a losing effort.
The Cavs’ defense just wasn’t up to the task in Game 2. Cleveland routinely miscommunicated its switches, and defenders often looked confused on what strategy to employ possession to possession. The Warriors took advantage with crisp passing and sound offense. A good barometer of how well Golden State’s attack was working? JaVale McGee scored 12 points and didn’t miss a field goal, finding buckets mostly on wide-open rim runs from the result of an overstretched defense.
Everything came easy for the Warriors’ stars. Durant was a paragon of efficiency, scoring 26 on 10-of-14 shooting. Durant took advantage of mismatches and was also lethal in transition. Curry was remarkable. He sunk a Finals record nine threes, many of which demoralized the Cavs every time they cut it close. Cleveland gave up way too many open looks Sunday, and was fortunate the Dubs missed some easy shots. The Warriors were also smart to push the ball quickly after both makes and misses, adding a layer of difficulty to a Cleveland defense that’s allergic to stringing together stops.
James was remarkable, but he looked strangely lethargic for long periods. He didn’t get much help outside of Kevin Love, who scored 22 points while collecting 10 rebounds. Even then, Love missed some good looks in the first half near the rim, and didn’t get going from three until after halftime. The Cavs got practically nothing from Jordan Clarkson, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver and Jeff Green, though George Hill had some positive moments. The burden on LeBron is still too high, as his masterful passing often went to waste on bricks. James was on pace to play the full 48 minutes in Game 2, only getting a rest once Ty Lue conceded in the fourth. (It was also surprising to see Clarkson continue to get minutes over Rodney Hood.)
There are no easy fixes for Cleveland. A team with a defense this bad has never made the Finals, and expecting it to transform overnight against one of the best offenses of all-time is foolish. But a little bit of focus would seemingly go a long way. It’s too late in the year for players to be yelling at each other after makes because they weren’t sure whether to hedge or switch. Then again, nobody in the league, let alone the Cavs, has an answer for Curry when he’s shooting as well as he did Sunday night.
Golden State is simply doing what it’s expected to do. The Warriors are a far better team, and they are nearly unbeatable when Curry and Durant play as well off each other as they did in Game 2. As long as Golden State’s offense is clicking, Cleveland will be hard pressed to compete on either end.
The biggest compliment you can give the Cavs right now is both games of the series have been closer for longer than most people expected them to be heading in. But the Warriors still have a 2–0 series lead as the series shifts to Cleveland. As the odds mount against them, the Cavaliers’ mental toughness will be tested as this series endures.
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