The Warriors survived LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1.
For most of the first half, the Dubs trailed. If that’s not particularly new, the difference this time was LeBron. James went 9 for 11 in the first half and hit his only three.
The half also saw several plays involving JR Smith:
At 06:17 Smith slid into Klay Thompson, injuring his leg and forcing Klay to leave the game. It looked bad. Fortunately, Klay returned and turned in a solid game. He had 18 points in regular time and 6 clutch points in OT.
At the buzzer, Smith attempted to overplay Steph Curry, leaving Curry open for a deep 3-point shot. Steph made it look easy, tying the game at 56 going into the half.
The second half was more LeBron James. Every time the Warriors looked like they would go on a run, James brought the Cavs back.
But there was also Steve Kerr's terrific move to bring on JaVale McGee to start the 3rd quarter. He was in for just minutes, but gave the Dubs a real spurt:
- Took on James one-on-one and stopped him. Twice. On two straight possessions,
- Blocked Tristan Thompson.
- Scored a layup and a dunk.
James finished regular time with a career playoff best of 51 points. He turned in an epic performance. But it all went for naught.
George Hill’s missed free throw and JR Smith unfathomable miss-handling of the rebound ensured that the game end in a tie. And that Game 1 will be remembered for something other than the amazing performance James turned in.
In the OT, the Warriors killed the Cavs and walked away with a huge win.
Steph Curry turned in the Warriors best performance with 29 points, six rebounds, and nine assists
If he continues this level of play, he's on track for series MVP.
13 down. Three to go.
It’s hard to say which was tougher for the Cavs, the razor-edge loss in Game 1 or the trouncing they got in Game 2. The second L may actually be more dispiriting.
The Warriors took the Cavs’ best punch in Game 1. They went back, made adjustments and upped their game. The decisive result in Game 2 showed that the strategy worked. Steve Kerr knows what he’s doing.
Does anyone remember the 51 points LeBron put up in Game 1.
If there was any doubt about whether Steph Curry is on a trajectory to claim his first Finals MVP, this game laid them to rest. Step was the story.
In 38 minutes, Steph had 33 points, going 11-26 from the field and 9-17 from 3. He had 7 rebounds, 8 assists and 1 steal.
His nine 3-pointers set a new NBA finals record.
After his near-death experience Klay in Game 1, few expected him to be able to return to the court in Game 2. Expect Klay himself.
But he did, and he played his butt off. If living well is the best revenge, Thompson should be happy. Klay added 20 solid points in 34 minutes, including an efficient 8-of-13 from the floor and some shining fourth-quarter moments.
He even got a great laugh out of the media
KD in the 12th dimension
Kevin Durant was the step too far for the Cavaliers. If they had hope of matching up to the Dubs led by Curry, when Durant is added to the mix they are cooked.
Durant brought his high-efficiency A-game to the show, finishing with 26 points (on just 14 shots), 9 rebounds and 7 assists. He played tight defense on James, was a force on rebounds and attacked with purpose off the dribble time and again. He was ever-present, without hijacking the flow of the game.
A Merry Band of Pranksters
JaVale McGee, Shaun Livingston & David West.
Steve Kerr is a tough competitor. He didn’t start JaVale McGee for fun, he did it to give the Cavs a look they weren’t ready for and put them on their heels from the opening tip. It worked.
When Kevin Love was on JaVale, JaVale moved out of the lane leaving room for Curry to drive on lesser defenders. When Love switched onto Curry, putting JR Smith or George Hill on McGee, JaVale slipped to rim for dunks. It was beautiful.
Kerr played the same game with Shaun and David West, switching up the Dubs offense for quick minutes to score important buckets. Beyond scoring, Livingston got the message that the Warriors wanted rebounds and was sharply aggressive.
And then there was the corner 3 from David West, his first in who knows how long. The crowd went nuts.
The Cav threw in the towel with over 4 minutes to go. They were done for the night.
The Warriors are two wins away from the championship. But they are still only 4 losses from seeing that slip away. Game 3 is in Cleveland on Wednesday.
My guess is going down to the Cavs in 2016 after being ahead is still fresh in the minds of the group. Going into Cleveland and putting together another focused effort would go a long way to laying that concern to rest. From the way the players are talking, they are taking the task seriously.
The majority of NBA commentators are saying that the Cavs will come back for a win in the game. I say the Dubs will put their stamp on the series with a win.
14 down. Two to go.
The Cavaliers returned to Cleveland to defend their home court and get back into the series. And for the start of the game, they did just that. They played with incredible energy and determination. It wasn't enough.
The Cavs were up by 12 in the middle of the first. The question was whether they would be able to keep up that level of intensity. They couldn’t. By the end of the first quarter, the Warriors had pulled to within one point.
The 2nd quarter was a repeat of the first. The Cavs battled and built up a lead. The Warriors fought back with better shooting, playmaking, Jordan Bell at the rim and Kevin Durant making clutch shots. KD’s 3-point shot over Larry Nance at the end of the quarter brought the Dubs to within 6.
Durant had 24 of the Warriors 52 points in the first half.
After the break, the Dubs started to take over the game. The Cavs slowed down offensively and defensively. The Dubs took advantage tying the game at 10:13 and finishing the 3rd quarter up by 2.
In the fourth, the Cavs managed to grab 1 point leads 4 times, the last being with 3:11 to go. Rodney Hood played hard. LeBron wasn’t able to take the game under his control.
The game marked the return to the lineup of Andre Iguodala. He played 21 minutes, scored 8 points and defended LeBron. Andre finished with a plus/minus of +14, behind only Kevin Durant and the same as Klay Thompson.
Jordan Bell had his best postseason performance, posting 10 points and six rebounds in 12 minutes. He provided an athletic spark to the lineup.
Curry hit his first 3 of the night with 2:35 to go put the the Dubs up by 4. KD calmly hits his dagger 3 with just under 50 seconds to go and the game is done. No heroics from LeBron to save the game.
Kevin Durant finished the game with 43 points on 15-for-23 shooting. He was 6-for-9 from three-point range and 7-for-7 at the free-throw line. He also had 13 rebounds and seven assists. He was as effective as in Game 1 against Houston.
Steph Curry had an off shooting night, but Durant credited his late 3 for helping the team close the door on the Cavs. Eric Apricot (Twitter, YouTube) created a video talking about Steph's role in the win.
How did the Warriors win NBA Finals Game 3 with Stephen Curry’s shooting being off until crunch time? KD, of course. But also, Steph made many wonderful winning contributions besides shooting. Here’s what you missed if you only read the box scores or listen to talk radio. Scenes from the big 3rd quarter comeback, co-starring Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, JaVale McGee, Jordan Bell and LeBron James. From 2018 Finals Game 3.
The Dubs have never swept the Cavs in the finals. Friday they’ll have their chance. I think they’ll take it.
15 down. One to go
Last year’s championship was revenge for the Warriors’ 2016 humiliation when they lost the last 3 games of the series to go down in 7. Losing game 7 at home was hard. The team was hungry and determined. They beat the Cavs in 5 after going 12-0 in the first three rounds, sweeping all opponents. A second championship in three years felt good.
This year, the Dubs went the final yard, downing Cleveland in 4 games. A finals sweep. The first three rounds of the playoffs were hard but the Warriors elevated their game against LeBron and Co.
Any lingering doubts from the 2016 collapse are gone.
The game started well. The Warriors won the tip and scored their first trip down the court: a Steph Curry tip-in of a JaVale McGee layup. It took less than 90 seconds for Kevin Durant to find his spot for a mid-range jumper over a George Hill. Curry made a signature miracle 3.
The Dubs were clicking offensively and played tight defense. The Cavs struggled to keep up. LeBron James stayed away from his right hand. The Cavs missed whole bunches of free throws.
Andre Iguodala made 3s. Had Curry made more of his open looks, the Dubs could have finished the first half up by 20 instead of 9.
The Warriors never looked back. They came out of the half playing with determination and efficiency. The Cavs scored 13 points in the 3rd. LeBron James left the game with 4 minutes to go.
16 down. Zero to go. Thanks for a great season!
The playoffs have been epic already. It’s hard to believe the finals are finally here.
For the Warriors, getting past the Rockets was a monumental achievement. The struggle of the accomplishment itself vs. living up to expectations brought the Dubs to the brink. In some ways, it also forged the Warriors of the future.
Now the Warriors face the Cavaliers in a series that’s historic in its own right. The series marks the first time in major North American sports history that the championship will match the same teams in four consecutive years.
The Warriors are heavy favorites. Nearly historic favorites. With legalized gambling on basketball about to crash over the game, oddsmakers are gaining a seat at the table.
Enjoy it while it lasts, by next year the gambling industry will own the NBA. Fans will just be visitors to the game.
On the other side, LeBron James’ almost single-handed willing of this Cavaliers squad to the finals is one of the greatest feats basketball has ever seen.
LeBron has routinely turned in performances that would be considered once-in-a-career efforts for most players. It is impossible to overstate the level of his play in this postseason. We are seeing a legend at his peak. It is amazing to be around for this moment.
So it’s time to sit back and enjoy the competition.
Here are some things to watch.
LeBron is the master. He sees the court like no one else and can execute passes that break down defenses in uncanny ways.
The Warriors fortunately don’t have to rely on a single playmaker. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala are all skilled passes. In the second team, David West and Shaun Livingston bring the same mindset.
To be honest, I’m looking forward to a Warriors feast. Steph’s gonna Steph. Klay too. Kevin Durant will turn his steely eye to the basket and make defenders cry. Here’s to Shaun finding his range along with David West. I hope that Nick Young comes out and catches fire.
At some point, LeBron will find his range. Possibly early and often. The question is whether Kyle Korver will get hot. Same for JR Smith. If Kevin Love finds his way back to the court, he may have his moments as well.
Someone said that Kevin Durant likes a challenge. Give him the toughest guy on the court and hel engages. If that’s true, then Durant on LeBron should be the ticket. At some point Andre Iguodala will be ready to return and he is the LeBron specialist. He may be the difference in the late part of the series.
Draymond will be in the middle of everything, as per his usual. It will be interesting to see how many LeBron plays he can blow up.
The Cavaliers were among the worst defenders during the regular season. Coming off the Rockets series and the toughness they dished out, Steph, KD and Klay may be in for some good times.
The Warriors are definitely showing the way they want to go with big men. Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee stayed on the bench for all but garbage time minutes during the Rockets series. The formula may change a bit for the Cavs - and given that this may well be the last series that either wears a Warriors uniform, I hope that they both gets real minutes. Zaza has given tons to the team. JaVale too.
But I expect that the series will be a coming out party for Jordan Bell.
Will Steph Curry win his first Finals MVP?
The writing is on the wall. KD won last year. Andre Iguodala won in 2015. It’s Steph’s time.
And other thoughts
This series will likely be the swan songs for Zaza Pachulia and David West. Most likely JaVale McGee as well. Nick Young was a one-year add to the team. It’s been too short. The Warriors deserved more of you.
Oakland and the Oracle arena. Next year the Warriors move across the bay to a new building. Not sure if going from a space sponsored by predatory IT company to one named for a predatory financial institution is a move in the right direction, but it is what it is.