Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote this piece. Now, the NBA Finals have tipped off to what we all feared, but hoped will not happen: an easy win for the too-talented Golden State Warriors. As with all sporting contests, Cleveland had a chance, no matter how slim. But the game went downhill from the second quarter, when the familiar traits of the two teams, plus some (positive) new elements from Golden State Warriors, appeared and tipped the game towards Dub Nation…
The Cavaliers were beset by familiar problems and they continued the pattern that sparked debates in the regular season. They relied too much on LeBron James and the duo of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The three scored 67 points between them, the rest of the team contributed just 22. Tristan Thompson, who showed promise in earlier playoff games, and was expected to be a huge factor in defense, was 0-3 in 22 minutes contributing only 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Kyle Korver was also 0-3 from 3-range, and also ended up with zip points. Deron Williams, multiple All Stars PG, also came off the bench and scored zero points in 19 minutes (0-4).
They offered nothing in defense and little on offense. The Cavaliers have struggled in defense all season long, a result of the way the team was built; too many offensive weapons, no major defensive pieces (except missing-in-action Tristan Thompson).
Warriors went wherever they wanted in offense, and got many open looks. They could have easily scored 150 points. Then, Warriors had 15 steals in the game, Cavaliers had…zero. Not a single steal in the whole game. On offense, the isolation plays of Cavaliers made it easy for Warriors to defend against them. Warriors played as a team, and passed for 31 assists; Cavs had 15. No way will Cavs not get swept if they continue like this.
Golden State played true to form, and kept the ball well. They committed just one Turn Over in the first half, and lost the ball only four times all game. Cavaliers on the other hand, committed 20 TO. That is suicidal against a team that is as good as Warriors; and Durant made them pay for it with highlight-reel-worthy plays and dunks in transition. Cavaliers then compounded their own woes by shooting the ball poorly. Cavaliers shot 34.9%. They missed open looks and fumbled layups that looked easy. They out-rebounded Warriors 59-50, but failed to make use of the 2nd opportunity.
Kevin Durant was simply unstoppable. The former NBA scoring Champion didn’t get out of the first gear (yup, KD was just 3-6 on treys) but still burned Cavs for a game-high 38 points, with most coming off transition plays and mismatches he cunningly created for himself by sheer off-the-ball movement. Warriors fed off Durant’s energy. He led the team the same way he had all season. Last season, Cavaliers dodged a bullet and pulled out a miracle. We wait to see if they will again recover this year.
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