The NBA Finals rematch was supposed to be one for the ages, but that hasn’t gone according to plan. The Golden State Warriors protected home court, but did it in convincing fashion by winning the first two games of this series by a combined 48 points. The Cleveland Cavaliers are in a lot of trouble heading back home for games three and four stating tonight.
The dream of winning back-to-back NBA championships is two games away from becoming a reality. The dream of winning one for the “Land” has been a nightmare thus far.
The Cavs were the runaway favorites in the Eastern Conference due to the lack of competitive teams. They breezed through the first three rounds by going 12-2 and they were all geared up for the collision course with the Warriors. They wanted the Warriors back in the Finals to prove to them that opposed to last year, they are healthy and can dethrone them. Now Cleveland finds themselves in a huge, but not insurmountable, 0-2 hole heading back home.
The Warriors on the other hand had to battle the Oklahoma City Thunder in a seven-game thriller after trailing in the series 3-1. Many are calling that the NBA Finals after the outcomes of the first two games of this series. The Dubs are showing why they are the best team in basketball with their depth. In Game 1, the Splash Brothers of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined to score 20 points, but the bench of the Warriors picked up the slack. Shaun Livingston scored a playoff career-high 20 points off the bench. Andre Iguodala scored 12 points, Leandro Barbosa scored 11 points hitting all five shots he attempted and Festus Ezeli added a bucket to help the Warriors bench outscore the Cleveland bench 45-10.
The big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love combined to score 66 points, but it was not enough. On most nights, if those three combine to score 60-plus points, it’s good enough to get the job done. Not against the Warriors who have the deepest bench in the league. James nearly had a triple double with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists, but again, it was not enough. The Cavs even came back from a nine-point halftime deficit and led on a couple of different occasions in the third. Then Golden State flexed its muscle and went on a 15-0 run.
Game 2 was the biggest nightmare of all for Cleveland, who lost 110-77. The Splash Brothers combined to score 35 points, but weren’t even the biggest factors in the game. Draymond Green scored 28 points and made 5-8 three pointers. Barbosa hit 5-6 field goals to continue his productive finals.
James scored 19 points on 7-17 shooting, but relied too much on his jump shot and that cost him. If the Cavs want to make this a series by winning Game 3 in Cleveland, James has to dominate and attack the basket. He is either going to make the shots or get fouled. He must play like a man possessed in Game 3 if his team is going to have any shot of winning this series. Irving scored just 10 points on 5-14 shooting while Love finished with five points, but left the game with concussion-like symptoms after receiving an inadvertent elbow to the back of his head. He is questionable for Game 3.
Another reason the game was a nightmare for Cleveland was the fact it looked like everyone on the team checked out mentally. It was like they realized just how good this Warriors team really is and then gave up. Maybe the home crowd can energize them in Game 3, but the way Golden State is playing, that might not even be enough. For all the talk of how badly the Cavs wanted another crack at the reigning, defending NBA champions, they haven’t showed it to this point in the series.
J.R. Smith is MIA in this series as he has shot just nine times from the floor. What happened to the Cavs spreading the floor and enabling guys like Smith and Channing Frye open looks? Tyronn Lue needs to think about possibly benching Smith as he is hurting his team.
A player we should not be overlooking is last year’s Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. He has been playing tremendous defense on LeBron for a second-straight year. He is certainly making a case to win the Finals MVP for a second year running.
You know this Warriors team is good when their best player, Curry, is only averaging 14.5 points per game. He doesn’t need to score 30-plus points for this team to win as he makes great decisions with the basketball and gets his teammates open shots to knock down. On the flipside of that, Irving needs to become more of a point guard and get his guys involved. He is shooting atrociously when creating his own shot, so he should look to dish the ball.
Wednesday night will be the biggest game of LeBron James’ career. If he cannot lead this team to a Game 3 victory and they go down 0-3, this series might not return to Oracle Arena. The dream of bringing one back to the “Land” is becoming one of the biggest nightmares of James’ career. If he doesn’t want to fall to 2-5 in NBA Finals, he needs to take over from the get go in Game 3.
The Warriors are on the verge of achieving their dream of winning back-to-back championships. For as much as the Cavs wanted a rematch with the Warriors, Golden State wanted them maybe even more. Last year the Cavs were dealt a slew of key injuries and this year they are fully healthy. Because of the injuries, some were questioning the validity of Golden State’s championship. Now, they are proving that notion to be a bust and are making an emphatic statement.
Will the dream season continue for the Warriors? Can the Cavs stop having such horrible nightmares and make this a series? We find out in Game 3.