Warriors Grind out Christmas Day win, Beat Cavaliers 99-92
After shooting historically bad from deep and losing to the Denver Nuggets, the Golden State Warriors (26-7) would face the Cleveland Cavaliers (24-9) at home on Christmas Day. Both teams would be without their starting point guards. Stephen Curry was close to his return, but was ruled out against the Cavs, and Isiah Thomas had yet to play this season with an injured hip. The Warriors beat the Cavs on christmas in 2016, but lost on a last second shot last year. Both teams came into the game playing well despite missing key pieces. Shaun Livingston and Zaza Pachulia would both be returning from their injuries. The Warriors went on to win the game, 99-92.
The first quarter started pretty slowly for both teams, with the Cavs starting 0-5 and the Warriors committing seven turnovers. Both Draymond Green and Kevin Durant picked up technical fouls as the game started off pretty chippy. Durant was frustrated because he did not get a call when he was mauled on a three. Draymond Got a tech when Durant and Jose Calderon got a little fiesty. Both teams shot the ball pretty well. The Cavaliers shot 44% from the field and 41.7% from three, while the Warriors shot 47.6% from the field and 50% from three. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were the leading scorers for the Warriors with nine points each, while LeBron James led the Cavs while also scoring nine points. The difference in the game in the first quarter was turnovers, the Warriors committed seven while the Cavs only turned the ball over three times. After the first, the Cavaliers led the Warriors 28-24.
In the second quarter, the Cavaliers shot the ball terribly, but were still able to keep the game close thanks to some questionable foul calls and Dwyane Wade pump-faking his way to the free throw line. The Cavs only made three shots in the entire quarter and saw their field goal percentage fall to 28.6%. The Warriors still shot the ball pretty well at 45.2%, but were unable to get their shots to fall from three. They shot 29.4% from deep in the first half, but they made more threes in the first half than in the entirety of their last game. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 14 points, and Klay was close behind with 13 points. Kevin Love led the Cavs with 11 points and 11 rebounds. The Warriors played excellent defense in the second quarter, but they still committed four turnovers, which was part of the reason for the game still being close. Patrick McCaw had a pretty bad first half, going 1-5 and had the worst +/- in the game with -4. At the end of the half, the Warriors led 46-44.
The third quarter was very similar to the second quarter in that the Cavs continued to shoot poorly, but they were able to stay in the game thanks to the Warriors’ sloppiness. Kevin Durant continued to dominate, finishing the quarter with 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and three blocks. Pat McCaw also exploded and made several nice plays a the rim when attacking LeBron James, he finished the quarter with nine points. The Warriors continued to play excellent defense and were able to keep the Cavs at under 30% shooting from the field. The Warriors shot the ball just as they did the quarter before, at 45.9%, but were still unable to get going from deep at just 22.2%. Kevin Love continued to have a dominant performance for the Cavaliers with 26 points and 17 rebounds. Heading to the fourth quarter, the Warriors led 71-67.
In the fourth quarter, the Warriors were able to put the clamps on and shut down some of the Cavaliers’ best scorers. They blocked three shots in the quarter, and two of them were by KD as he wanted to go 1-on-1 with LeBron. Draymond Green was remarkable throughout the fourth, and hit two threes down the stretch to maintain the lead. The Cavs managed to shoot just 31.8% from the field throughout the whole game, while the Warriors shot a much higher percentage at 46.3%. The Warriors never did get going from deep, but hit threes when it counted down the stretch. The game ended when KD blocked LeBron on a drive to the hoop that did not result in a foul call, but did result in Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy bitch about replay for the remaining five minutes of the broadcast. The Warriors won the game 99-92.
This matchup is not necessarily an NBA Finals preview, even though the two teams are likely to meet in the finals for the fourth year in a row. Both teams were missing their starting point guards, and because of that, the game will look completely different if they do meet in the playoffs. Regardless, there still is a big takeaway from this game, and that is that KD has the ability to lock down LeBron on defense throughout an entire game. KD held LeBron to just 20 points on 7-18 shooting, and completely shut him down in the second half. KD has made a great effort to improve on defense his year and is one of the league leaders in blocked shots, and adding that to one of the games greatest scorers ever is ridiculous.
There were many incredible performances today, most of which came from the Warriors. Kevin Durant led the team with 25 points, but he also picked up five blocks. Klay Thompson put up 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Draymond Green picked up his first triple-double of the season, so he has a twitter-verified #goodgame. He finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. Kevin Love had an incredible game for Cleveland, and it felt like he couldn’t miss from beyond the arc. He finished with 31 points and 18 rebounds, and was a big reason that Cleveland was able to keep it close.
The Warriors play their next game on Wednesday, December 27, at home against the Utah Jazz at 7:30 p.m.