Warriors in control, hoping to take commanding 3-0 lead in quest for third title in four years
The Cavs missed their chance to get a win at Oracle Arena in Game 1, and Game 2 predictably got out of hand late as the Eastern Conference champs looked fatigued and Stephen Curry took over from beyond the arc. Golden State now takes its show on the road to Quicken Loans Arena, where it’s two victories away from celebrating a second championship in four years in front of Cleveland’s fans.
Eleven points was the largest lead for each team in the Warriors’ wild Game 1 overtime win, but the Cavs never led in Game 2. Cleveland pulled to within five a few times late in the third quarter but wouldn’t get any closer, and Curry went to work in the fourth, making five of his Finals-record nine 3s to turn what had been a relatively close game into a 122-103 Golden State win. The Warriors have now won 13 Finals games against the Cavaliers during this four-season stretch of meeting for the title, and five of those victories have been by at least 19 points.
Curry was the headliner with his 33-point, eight-assist performance in Game 2, but Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant were just as vital. Durant was a highly efficient 10 for 14 from the field after going 8 for 22 in Game 1, and he was a game-best plus-24. Thompson fought off a high ankle sprain that had him questionable to even play and delivered, going 8 for 13 to give Golden State a third 20-point scorer.
How Cleveland defends Curry going forward will be interesting. The Cavs have been switching everything in the first two games and often left Kevin Love on an island against Curry, and while Love typically did an admirable job, the two-time MVP needs the tiniest shred of space to get off his 3s. Curry was uncontested for 12 of his 17 attempts from long distance, hitting seven, and he went 2 for 5 with a hand in his face. The Cavs have, at times, trapped Curry on the perimeter during or after some of his biggest performances, and while it can often force him to be sloppy with the ball, there are risks. If he’s able to get the ball out of a trap, the Warriors are often looking at a 4-on-3 beneath the arc. That can lead to a dunk, layup or, perhaps worse, a wide-open corner 3.
Curry has fared well from long distance in Cleveland during past Finals. He’s hit 44 percent of his 3s in the Warriors’ eight postseason games there, but his turnovers tend to be more destructive. Curry has given it away at least four times in all four of the Warriors’ playoff losses at the Q. Perhaps the trap is the way to go.
James is finding his teammates in their usual positions, but the Cavs simply aren’t making shots.
50. That’s how many potential assists LeBron James has through two games in the series, which makes his total of 21 actual assists seem less impressive from a team standpoint. James is finding his teammates in their usual positions, but the Cavs simply aren’t making shots.
That’s not unusual in these playoffs. Cleveland is shooting 37 percent from 3-point range at home and an unsightly 31.0 percent on the road. Kyle Korver, who totaled four points in 34 minutes in Oakland, has been the biggest beneficiary of being at the Q, shooting 55.3 percent in Cleveland and 34.5 percent in enemy territory. Tyronn Lue needs to play him more often in Game 3 instead of Game 1 goat J.R. Smith, though Korver is almost completely reliant on James to get him space to launch – something the Warriors have not typically allowed.
Aside from the Cavs needing to shoot better, they desperately need someone to contest shots in the paint. Golden State is 41 for 50 (82 percent) in the restricted area and 12 for 21 (57.1 percent) on other shots in the paint through the first two games, numbers that are untenable if Cleveland wants to have a chance. But with nothing remotely resembling a reliable rim protector – James is the closest thing the Cavs have, and he doesn’t have the mental or physical energy to be the last line of defense – it’s going to be difficult to keep Golden State from forming a layup line.
The Cavaliers’ prospects of winning this series are dire – you can get 13 to 1 in Vegas and offshore – but they should be competitive at home. Cleveland lost Games 1 and 2 in Oakland by a combined 41 points last season, then should have won Game 3 before blowing a six-point lead with three minutes to play. They didn’t even let that gut-wrenching collapse sink them, hitting 24 3s in Game 4 in front of a home crowd that knew they had nothing to lose. There’s a path toward extending this series, and it starts with riding the hostile energy from what should be a crowd with quite a few pent-up frustrations.
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