For the first time in five attempts, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers (and in resounding fashion). Behind an aggressive Stephen Curry, Golden State jumped out to an early 7-nothing lead that expanded to 15 after one quarter. By the half, Golden State’s advantage had ballooned to an insurmountable 29 behind a barrage of 3-point bombs, Draymond Green’s triple-double effort, and 44 points from the bench.
Other than Draymond’s leveling of Lebron James on a Flagrant 1 foul in the second quarter, the blow-out victory was short on drama and suspense.
With the win, the Dubs are now 11-8 against the Cavs since the two teams started trading championships.
Here are 10 thoughts on the game:
1. Welcome back to the “rivalry,” Stephen Curry! After taking only 11 shots in the Christmas Day loss and voicing his displeasure about the lack of opportunities, the two-time MVP came out of the gates ready to fire away. Curry launched seven shots in the first quarter alone (20 for the game) and although his efficiency was off, his aggression meant the Cavs had to pay extra attention to him defensively, which opened up passing lanes for teammates (11 assists) and also led to those Vine-worthy highlights that have been fewer and farther between this year. The two-time MVP spent much of the early season sacrificing his own shots to help smooth Kevin Durant’s transition to the offense, but since the Christmas Day no show, Curry’s scoring has increased to 26.3 per game on 20 attempts, the latter of which is more in line with last season’s MVP performance. If nothing else, the loss three weeks ago seemed to have waken the slumbering MVP.
2. The Dubs got 33 points from their three elder statesmen off the bench. You don’t thump the defending champions by 35 points without a great effort from the entire squad and the Warriors got 14-of-16 shooting from Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West combined. It should come as no surprise that this offensive prowess follows a rare three-day break from games. That kind of time off isn’t happening during the playoffs, so it’ll be interesting to see which of the three Warriors vets can duplicate this kind of performance on less rest.
3. People say NBA Twitter can be a bad place, but look at the beauty and poetry that blossoms from it.
4. Unlike the Christmas debacle, the Warriors were able to limit the Cavs’ offensive rebounding (seven) and corralled their own turnover issue (16). They gave up 11 more offensive rebounds and had 3 more giveaways in the previous meeting — that’s 14 possessions. As you’d expect, the Warriors got 14 more shot attempts in this game than on Christmas.
5. Kyrie Irving’s defensive struggles have been well documented, but after watching him continually get crushed on simple 1-5 screens, it’s a wonder why Steve Kerr hadn’t put the ball in Curry’s hands more to exploit that match up.
6. Draymond and Kevin Durant need a shot-blocking nickname, especially after last night’s 8-swat effort. KD straight stole Lebron’s lunch money in the third quarter. Shot blocks isn’t the best measure of paint defense, but it should be comforting for Kerr to know there is a presence under the rim that can erase mistakes out top.
7. Which is probably why he was OK with having Zaza Pachulia matched up with Lebron one-on-one on the perimeter (Zaza did well and even helped force a Lebron turnover in one sequence). Pachulia won’t be able to guard James on an island, but if he can slow him enough, there will be help on the back line from Dray and KD.
8. Joakim Noah once called Lebron and his Miami team “Hollywood as hell.” After watching James act like he got sniped from the rafters on a hard Draymond foul, it’s hard to disagree with the former Bull.
9. Kerr has been tinkering with his rotations recently, electing now to play Steph and KD together more and have Draymond and Klay start the second quarter with the back ups. With Dray out, Curry gets the ball in his hands more and, perhaps more importantly, the two former MVPs get more time to work with one another off the pick-and-roll. Instead of playing dueling banjos basketball in crunch time, the two now have an opportunity to find an offensive rhythm for when the games gets tight.
10. A January blowout against the Cavs when one team is at the end of a 5-game road trip and the other is coming off an extended break probably doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of this rivalry. These two teams are heavy favorites to meet again in June and, should that happen, this Cavalier dismantling and the Warriors’ fourth-quarter collapse on Christmas Day isn’t going to make much of a difference in the players’ minds. The Warriors are, by any measure, a better team than the Cavs. If we are all so lucky to get a three-peat Finals, the Dubs will likely have home court advantage and sport a lineup with four of the top five players in the series. But there is, of course, one glaring problem: the Cavs have the best guy. I can’t wait until June (assuming both teams make it that far).