It doesn’t matter that Andre Iguodala can’t shoot anymore. It doesn’t matter that Steve Kerr decided to start a rookie at center in an away game. It doesn’t matter that Stephen Curry started out passive and sat on the bench through more than half of the fourth quarter. Nothing matters anymore in this Cleveland Cavaliers – Golden State Warriors rivalry. The Warriors have owned this, have always owned this despite a 3-game stretch in 2016, and are now just putting the finishing touches on a dynasty that will likely see the end of the Great LeBron James.
A little bit of this is a counting the chickens before they hatch situation but the signs are all there. The Warriors coasted through most of the game, turned it up in the 4th quarter without their two best players, and put a stamp on it with the likes of Nick Young to end another dominating performance over a team they have faced three straight times in the NBA Finals. In what is becoming the theme through the last few seasons, the Cavs, namely LeBron James comes out guns ablazin’. Defensively, they swarm Steph and chase down rebounds like it’s 2016 again. On offense, LeBron is bulldozing his way to the rim, drawing fouls, and ancillary guys like Kevin Love, Jae Crowder, and Kyle Korver are railing threes.
But it’s always not enough, and much too early. The Warriors get just enough from anyone, and in this game it came from Klay Thompson early, and Steph and KD in the middle. Then as the game progresses, the shots become harder to find, the rotations start to tighten up, and the shooting for the Warriors start to warm up, the game lurches back into familiarity.
The Warriors tense up, they start to switch around and move quicker than LeBron’s methodical exploit where Steph is offense, forcing a contested jumper by someone wholly underqualified to do it, say a washed up veteran like Jeff Green. Then on the other end, the Warriors run an elevators play, simple as ever, and entirely run to the ground even the normal person watching can tell Nick Young is going to shoot to the top of the key. And with LeBron James roaming by guarding Draymond Green for an entire game, he still manages to lose the slipping Draymond, leading to a classic miscommunication and a wide open layup. Minutes later with the game in hand, the Cavs throw two guys at Steph near halfcourt, leaving Draymond a wide open lane with zero resistance on an easy alley oop pass to Andre Iguodala. Game, Set, Match. Rinse and repeat, repeatedly.
It’s so easy that the Warriors are looking even bored in what is one of the greatest wars of all time. The gameplan against LeBron James is akin to the one against Dragan Bender and Marquess Chriss on a standard Tuesday night. They’re starting Jordan Bell in a matchup switch, yes, but he played 14 substandard minutes. There’s no extra doubling, no more Steph/KD PNR than the frustrating usual, no shorter rotations, and most concerning of all for the rest of the league, no real urgency in how forceful they look.
There’s regular season, postseason, and NBA Finals atmosphere. The Cavs came out with postseason fight, and still got soundly defeated by a Warriors effort best reserved for the doldrums of the NBA season. The Warriors have now won 7 of the last 8 meetings, 2 titles of the last 3, and looking like at least one more against this Cavaliers team before LeBron James starts to look elsewhere. And if you don’t want to look at the score, the statistics, nor the history in believing that this thing is over? Just look at the body language of these Warriors every time they face off against LeBron James. The fear is gone. And unless there’s a 2016 miracle and more coming, this rivalry is gone.