Golden State Warriors – 132
Cleveland Cavaliers – 113
The Cavaliers did better than their Game 1 performance. Better wasn’t good enough. The question that lingers after a 132-113 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals is if even the Cavs’ best would be enough.
It felt like the wine and gold were constantly trying to close a 10-point gap. After opening the first quarter on a roll, they found themselves down 10 with five minutes still to go in the first quarter, but closed it to six to end the period. LeBron James and Kevin Love scored the Cavs’ first 13 points, forcing the ball inside and getting to the rim. James was especially fantastic, dishing out five assists in the first 12 minutes. But the Cavaliers also struggled again with turnovers, punctuated by Kyrie Irving losing a behind-the-back pass to Tristan Thompson that led to a Golden State fast break. Warriors star Stephen Curry shot ten free throws in the first, making it difficult for the Cavaliers to get much going. He was initiating contact at the rim and had a flailing shot attempt as Richard Jefferson looked to foul him in transition, resulting in three shots from the charity stripe.
The second quarter didn’t open well, as the Cavaliers trotted out a lineup of Irving, Deron Williams, Kyle Korver, Iman Shumpert, and Channing Frye. That lineup quickly gave up any ground that was closed to end the first, with the Warriors extending their lead to 12 early in the second quarter. But again, the Cavaliers were able to cut the lead back to one, finally finding a few answers. Iman Shumpert’s defense, especially against Kevin Durant, gave James a rest and let him roam more to create turnovers.
With Thompson struggling, Love logged more time at center, ending the half with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting. The Cavaliers went into halftime down only three and having forced 13 turnovers while shooting only 25 percent from long distance. It looked like they had maybe found a rhythm and a few tweaks that allowed them to play with Golden State’s machine.
But Golden State again jumped on the Cavs in the third quarter, extending the lead to eleven early. James and the small-ball lineup got within four, but the offense sputtered, going over three minutes without scoring, and the Warriors pounced, extending the lead back to sixteen. When No. 23 went to the bench for a breather near the end of the third quarter, he looked exhausted and a bit defeated.
Things unraveled in the fourth quarter, as Durant and Curry exploded, draining threes and having their way with the Cavaliers’ defense. At one point Curry in the competitive time of the game, Curry was shown on the sidelines with a towel over his head not even watching the game. After sipping beer from the sideline and spinning the ball in Serge Ibaka’s face, it was the Cavaliers turn to be disrespected. Much like their own opponents earlier in the postseason, the Cavaliers had no answer.
James was fantastic. His 29 points on 18 shots to go along with 14 assists, 11 rebounds, three steals, and one block kept the Cavaliers in the game for the most part. He was getting to the rim and converting, even through contact. As has been the case so many times, it often felt like he put the team on his back, and it simply wasn’t enough. Love was fantastic, as well. He followed his 21 rebounds in Game 1 by scoring 27 points in Game 2. Coming into the series it was assumed that Love’ defense would keep him off the court. Instead, Love was one of the few bright spots, and his time at center was a wrinkle that seemed to open things up for the offense.
Meanwhile, Thompson and Kyrie Irving struggled again. Thompson played only 21 minutes after 22 in Game One. He has totaled eight rebounds combined over two games after averaging more than nine boards per contest in the regular season. Normally the Cavaliers’ last line of defense, Thompson has struggled all series, and it’s hard to see them winning if he can’t find his game. If his draft partner Irving can’t find his game, it is completely impossible to see the Cavaliers pulling off a comeback. Irving couldn’t find his shot all game, missing shots he normally makes around the rim and struggling to create the types of open looks that make him so deadly. Cleveland needs him to get going if they want to have any hope at winning this series.
Let’s wipe away the tears and look behind the box score:
1 – Games Steve Kerr has been able to coach this series, returning to the bench for Game Two. Kerr is widely considered one of the best people in the NBA and it was awesome to see him back on the sidelines.
8 – Triple doubles for LeBron James in the NBA Finals, tying the record set by Magic Johnson.
9 – Turnovers for the Cavs after 20 in Game One.
17 – Percentage from three for the non-Big 3 (James, Irving, Love) members of the Cavs during the competitive portion of the game.
65 – Combined points for Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. The Cavs just don’t have an answer for the two former MVPs.
22 – Points for Klay Thompson. You know, that historically-amazing shooter that plays next to the two former MVPs? Oh, we haven’t even mentioned the likely Defensive Player of the Year in Draymond Green.
0 – Questions LeBron James answered from the podium. He decided to answer questions from the locker room.
He's had to wait to talk at podium a few times recently and he's decided he's done with it for now.
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) June 5, 2017
When asked about it, James said he had a reason, and it wasn’t about wins and losses. So if you were wondering what the hot take was gonna be after James dropped a triple double? Here you go. Let’s hope the Cavs bring the heat as they return home Wednesday night for Game 3.