Warriors spoil solid start from Cleveland, Win 118-108
After an exciting win over the Toronto Raptors, the Golden State Warriors (35-9) flew to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers (26-16) in the second installment of last year's’ NBA Finals rematch. The first installment saw the Warriors beat the Cavaliers on Christmas without Stephen Curry. Tonight, the Warriors would have their whole roster available, except for Omri Casspi, and this would be the first time the Warriors play the Cavaliers with Isaiah Thomas. The Cavaliers had lost three straight games heading into tonight, and were 3-7 in their last 10, whereas the Warriors had won two straight and were 8-2 in their last 10. The Warriors were looking to further demoralize the Cavs by extending their losing streak to four games. Jordan Bell also was getting the start over Zaza Pachulia. The Warriors went on to win the game 118-108.
The first quarter saw both teams come out hot. They both shot above 50% from the field, but the points came in different ways from both teams. The Cavaliers were led by Kevin Love and LeBron James, who combined for 26 of the teams 37 points. LeBron got most of his points in the paint, where he threw down two big alley-oops. Kevin Love hit a three and tipped in several shots. The Warriors were led by Klay Thompson, who had 13 points. He made 3 threes, and looked locked in right from the start. Kevin Durant was next up with eight points, and threw down a monster dunk in the face of LeBron James, which was pretty cool. The scoring was much more spread out for the Warriors, as Stephen Curry was acting as a distributor more than a scorer to open the game, only taking two shots, but finishing with four points. Neither team was playing great defense in the opening period, and the Cavaliers led the Warriors 37-35.
In the second quarter, the Warriors cooled off and had a hard time scoring at times.They finished the half shooting 46.7%. Klay still led the Warriors, and he had 15 points at halftime. Both Durant and Steph joined him in double figures, but outside of those three, the Warriors were having a very hard time scoring. Stephen Curry finally started shooting the ball, and drained a three in LeBron’s face, which was a welcome sight. Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green were having a particularly hard time scoring, with Iguodala looking atrocious at times. It is starting to become very frustrating watching him be unwilling to take open shots or layups, and it slows down the offense. Draymond Green’s shot was just off, and he went 2-6 in the half. The Warriors offense was moving pretty slow, and was very sloppy, throwing many ill-conceived passes. The sloppiness resulted in 10 turnovers and allowed the Cavs to get several momentum-shifting plays. The Cavs were still being led by LeBron, who had 20 points in the half, as well as blocking a layup from Kevin Durant. As a team, the Cavs were shooting 56.5%, and they had several nice plays in the half, including alley-oops to LeBron and Jeff Green. At the half, the Cavaliers still led the Warriors 64-57.
The third quarter saw KD and Steph heat up to lead the Warriors against the Cavs. Steph was incredible, seemingly hitting every three he took, and even throwing down a two-handed jam in the lane. He finished the third quarter with 22 points. Kevin Durant was also absurd, finishing the third with 29 points, including hitting a couple stellar threes. Those two did the majority of the scoring for the Warriors, who were playing much cleaner in the third quarter. The Warriors were shooting 47% through three quarters, and that included shooting 41% on threes. The Cavaliers were still shooting the ball well, ending the quarter at 52.1%, but were still relying on LeBron James. James finished the quarter with 26 points, and he had a nice block on Stephen Curry as he attempted to make a layup. Isaiah Thomas also hit a couple nice shots, finishing with 15 points. After three quarters, the Warriors led 93-91.
The Warriors continued to play well throughout the entire fourth quarter. They opened the quarter by building their lead without Steph and KD on the floor, and that’s when I knew the game was over. The Warriors finished the game shooting 48.2%, but the Cavaliers’ FG% plummeted in the fourth, dropping to 45.7%. Kevin Durant hit a couple big shots down the stretch, including the dagger, and he finished with 32 points, eight assists, five rebounds, three steals, and a block. LeBron was still the leader of the Cavaliers, and finished with 3 points, six assists, eight rebounds, three steals, four blocks, and eight turnovers. There was not a whole lot of competition down the stretch, as the Warriors just looked like they had spent the first 36 minutes playing with their food before eating it. The Warriors won the game 118-108.
This whole game was pretty interesting, not because of the outcome, but because of the effort displayed by the Warriors. It felt as if they did not care for the first two and a half quarters, and they were still able to hang with the Cavaliers and not allow them to extend their lead. I think that this game goes to show how highly the Warriors think of themselves. I truly believe that the team thinks that the Cavaliers aren’t really close to being able to beat them, and it’s true, but it was interesting to see the level of disrespect that was displayed to them in the first three quarters. It almost felt like it does when the Warriors play against the Clippers.
Both Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant had incredible games, finishing with 23 and 32 points, respectively. They were able to thrive in the second half because Coach Kerr used the unbeatable Curry/KD pick and roll for the second straight game, which was pretty interesting to see. Draymond Green also stepped it up in the second half, finishing with 11 points, 16 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 blocks. Klay Thompson finished with 17 points, and I am pretty sure that he did not attempt more than two shots in the second half. For the Cavaliers, their top performers were LeBron and Isaiah. LeBron finished with 32 points, six assists, eight rebounds, three steals, four blocks, and eight turnovers, which isn’t all that surprising anymore from him. Isaiah finished with 19 points on 8-21 shooting, and it was pretty evident that he is either rusty, or not as good a shooter this year. Personally, I was not a fan of seeing him put up that many shots, and I think he should be more of a distributor for that team to be successful.
Something interesting that I noticed from this game was JR Smith’s reluctance to shoot, which is stunning, seeing that up until this year he was the epitome of an “shoot first, ask questions later” player. He only attempted eight shots tonight, and over this whole season he is averaging nearly two less shots per game, which is strange because he is a good shooter. I might even say that he is a better shooter than Isaiah Thomas, or that I would prefer for JR to be taking those shots instead of Isaiah. This game also was frustrating because I have now reached my boiling point when it comes to Andre Iguodala’s unwillingness to shoot. For the past week or two, he just refuses to put up shots at the rim and has zero interest in putting up a shot in traffic near the hoop. I think that the mindset is spreading too, as now young guys like McCaw and Jordan Bell just pass up open shots/layups in favor of passing to one of the Big Four, and it is infuriating.
I am also completely over everyone just drooling over LeBron every night. All I hear on broadcasts and on twitter is “He is in his 15th season” and “Reminder: He’s 32 years old”. I GET IT. We are 43 games into this season after tonight, I understand how old he is, I understand that it is his 15th season. It is so irritating at this point, why can’t we all just focus on the fact that his team is currently playing like garbage or that there are several reports of his teammates being frustrated with the way he is playing? His fans on twitter talk about his age more than Vegans talk about the fact that they are Vegan, it is so unbelievably annoying. The point is, I think we should be able to put that storyline behind us as the season moves into its’ second half.
The Warriors play their next game on Wednesday, January 17, in Chicago against the Bulls at 5 p.m.