Looking only at the score differentials from last year’s NBA Finals compared to this year’s might lead one to incorrectly assume that this year’s Golden State Warriors are a lot like last year’s Warriors and this year’s Finals might look something like last year’s. The Warriors won the first two games of the series handily against the Cleveland Cavaliers, like they did a year ago.
But this year’s Warriors are deeper and more diversely talented than last year’s Warriors. That means to keep pace with them, the Cleveland Cavaliers have to be too.
But can they?
“We have two games under our belt, so we have to get used to it now,” Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson said. “We’re going home, the crowd will be behind our back and we have to go out there and play.”
Nothing that’s happened in the first two games dispelled the idea that LeBron James is the best player on the court. But he hasn’t had enough help from his teammates to threaten the star-studded Warriors. The Cavaliers have been unable to stop the Warriors, whose 132-point output Sunday marked the most points scored by a team in the Finals since 1987, when the Lakers scored 141 against the Boston Celtics.
In Game 2, the Warriors got 30-point games from two starters, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, a 20-point game from another, Klay Thompson, and double-digit games from reserves Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark. Reserve Andre Iguodala had five assists.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, haven’t gotten nearly enough production from anyone other than James, who had a triple-double Sunday, and forward Kevin Love, who had 21 rebounds in Game 1.
Point guard Kyrie Irving scored 19 points Sunday but took 23 shots and was unable to slow Curry when matched against him.
“They’re obviously trying to make a few other guys make plays,” Irving said, “and when we’re coming off our isolations, they’re bringing a few more bodies to clog the lane. For us, just see the weak side action and be able to make the passes.”
Said James of Irving: “He missed some chippies — ones he’s so accustomed to making.”
Thompson, whose rebounding has been critical for the Cavaliers all season, has been virtually absent for two games. He had only four rebounds in Game 2, which was better than his scoreless four-rebound performance in Game 1. Curry, who is 6 feet 3, had more rebounds in Game 2 than Thompson has in two games.
“They’ve been out there talking a lot about trying to keep a body on him, a couple of bodies on him,” James said. “He’s a big piece of our success and they know that, so they have neutralized that in the first two games.”
And JR Smith only took two shots Sunday, missing both.
The Warriors have done more than neutralize most of the Cavaliers’ starters, bombarding them with their firepower, and they’ve also been effective against their bench players.
Backup point guard Deron Williams hasn’t scored yet in the Finals. Kyle Korver, a 45% there-point shooter, didn’t score in Game 1 and has made one of six three-point attempts.
The Warriors are a team that discombobulates opponents.
“Just follow the game plan,” Cavaliers Coach Tyronn Lue said when asked what he needs from his reserves. “Whatever your job is, you’ve got to come in and do it. I always talk about being a star in your role. So whatever your role may be, if you play 30 seconds or 30 minutes, you’ve got to be ready to play. So when the shots are available, they’ve got to take them. You’ve got to be aggressive. You’ve got to attack. And you can’t play passive against this team.”
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