Everything was going the Cavs way.
Draymond Green picked up his third foul 10 seconds into the second quarter, the Warriors tripled their turnover total from Game 1 with 13 before halftime, LeBron James beasted everything in his way like some kind of sentient freight train — and yet the Warriors still had a three-point lead at the half.
And at Oracle Arena, with a Stephen Curry third quarter lurking, that meant the 132-113 Warriors win was all but academic.
Like he has done on so many other occasions, Curry absolutely owned the third quarter. His absurd third quarter line of 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and just one turnover blitzed the perplexed Cavs and threw the game into blowout territory.
Returning head coach Steve Kerr said that Curry is so important to the Warriors offense, even when he’s not scoring:
“He just generates so much force to the game. Even when he’s not making shots, he’s bringing defenders all the way out to the perimeter, which opens up so much. He pushes the ball relentlessly… He changes the game just by being himself and being out there and attacking.”
Curry finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to cap off what was a mixed bag of a night for him. He struggled with his shot for most of the game. Although he did end up shooting 7-of-17, and that’s after he finished the game on a 5-of-9 streak. He also made a handful of questionable decisions resulting in a team high eight turnovers.
But what he was lacking in shooting from the floor and in ball security, he made up for in everything else, with his important rebounding rate, as well as his 14 made free throws.
Oh and a little sauce for James.
Steph Curry takes LeBron everywhere off the dribble. pic.twitter.com/LOuOcuIvmJ
— RealGM (@RealGM) June 5, 2017
Kevin Durant again led the team in scoring with 33 points, while pulling in 13 boards, six assists, three, steals and five blocks, and became the first player to ever put up those numbers in an NBA playoff game. He’s now scored at least 25 points in each of his first seven Finals games, which puts him in rarefied air, as the only other players to do that are Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.
Green said that the two stars have reached a new level in these Finals:
“Both of them, to me, it seemed like it’s personal for both of them. And you are talking two of the greatest players that we got in this world locked in the way they are, that’s why we’re up 2-0.”
Durant not only has been imposing his will offensively but he’s been playing what might be the best defense on the team at this point. While it’s easy to focus on the matchup with James, who looked borderline unstoppable going for 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting, Durant is doing the things that go unnoticed on defense as well.
His closeouts on shooters are making life difficult for the likes of J.R. Smith and they’ve allowed the Warriors to completely nullify the Cavs from deep, who have shot just 31 percent as a team this series. Durant even filled in as the small ball center while Green sat most of the game with foul trouble.
Kerr was absolutely impressed by his star’s defense:
“I thought that Kev’s defense was unreal, and it was probably the key to the whole game.”
While Kerr loved that part of the game, the start of it was probably the absolute worst thing for the returning coach. After watching the Mike Brown-led team commit just four turnovers in Game 1, Kerr took the reins back and the Warriors promptly fumbled away almost every other possession with lazy passes and drives to nowhere.
The things Kerr hates most:
“Yeah it was a welcome back, coach. That’s been the focus the last two days is can we repeat the formula. The answer was no. We did not repeat it. Tonight was a game based on talent. We had a lot of guys who played exceptionally well individually…But heading to Cleveland, we’re going to have to be a lot smarter.”
Cleveland, however, embraced Tyron Lue’s assessment that their best defense is their offense, and went all in on the offensive side. They even gave Channing Frye first quarter minutes after he picked up a DNP-CD last game.
The strategy seemed to pay off, as the Cavs scored 64 points in the first half and kept the game closer than the previous one.
Their only problem is that their worst defense was their actual defense, as the Warriors ate them up offensively and gave Cleveland no footholds to keep a lead.
Klay Thompson finally busted out of his postseason long slump offensively, just as Kerr predicted before the game. He shot 8-of-12 from the field and scored over 20 points for just the third time in the playoffs.
Curry said it was great to see his backcourt mate finally go off:
“We’re never worried about him and his shooting. He does so much for us on the defensive end, his presence just on the floor as a threat to shoot, even if he doesn’t get an attempt up.”
And Thompson’s offense is the final piece that the Warriors have been lacking all postseason, a postseason in which they’ve won 14 straight games. That fact and the way they played hangs over the Cavs like a rain cloud. No matter what the Cavs did, or how good they were playing they could never get over that hump to take the lead.
And by the looks of it, that could be the story of the series as a whole.
That they just can’t escape the inevitable.
Another two-day break awaits these teams with Game 3 not scheduled until Wednesday. After a 10 day break to start the series, the two game breaks between games seems even more agonizing.
Stephen Curry shot 10-of-10 from the line in the first quarter alone, which tied the franchise record for most free throws made in a quarter. Sarunas Marciulionis hit 10 in 1992 against Seattle. … The 50-40-90 club is hallowed ground for any NBA player to reach, shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from deep and 90 percent from the line. Well the Warriors just did that as a team Sunday, shooting 51 percent from the field, 41 percent from beyond the arc and 91 percent from the line. … The Warriors also hit 18 3-pointers, which is an NBA Finals record for 3-pointers made in a single game. … It’s also the first time in NBA Finals history that two opposing players both recorded triple-doubles, with James tallying 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists to join Curry.