Well, that should finally make the Warriors feel a little better.
Golden State throttled the Cleveland Cavaliers 126-91 on Monday to split the regular-season series 1-1. It was Golden State's first victory over the Cleveland since Game 4 of the NBA Finals back in June. The Warriors jumped out to a 7-0 start, and never looked back. They had runs of 10-1, 18-3 and a 14-0 run in the 4th quarter to suspend a collapse once the Cavs got it back to within 20-ish.
Kevin Durant finished with 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting, and Stephen Curry added 20 points and 11 assists in the victory. LeBron James shot 6-of-18 for 20 points and just two assists, and Kyrie Irving finished with 17 points on 19 shots. Kevin Love didn't play the second half with back soreness.
The Warriors needed to win this game, had to win this game, and they won it in emphatic fashion. This won't erase the 3-1 collapse or the Christmas Day loss which felt more like an actual matchup, but it does at least soothe the burn a bit. Here's everything you need to know from the beatdown at Oracle:
1. Warriors were a fiery flying doom machine
Everything Golden State is capable of was unleashed against the Cavaliers. The Warriors won the points in the paint battle by 12, held even with the Cavs in second-chance points, outscored them by a just-insane 37-13 spread in fast-break points, held the Cavaliers to 35 percent shooting and shot 51 percent from the field on their end. Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant all scored 20-plus, shooting 24-of-53 from the field.
They outscored the Cavs by 18 from the 3-point line and 12 in the paint. Win both of those areas and you're going to win the game. Control the flow the way the Warriors did and you get a blowout of epic proportions.
2. Cleveland did not have it
The Warriors took this game. So when I say this, do not take it as excuses. The Warriors were the better team and if the Cavs brought their A-game, the Warriors probably still win given how well they played. But the Cavs were on the back end of a West Coast road trip, and pretty much every Eastern Conference team struggles in these situations. They've been sloppy and tired for most of the trip, they lost to the Blazers in blowout fashion last week. J.R. Smith is still out, and the Cavs just didn't have it. Again, this is not to take anything away from Golden State, it's just the reality. This wasn't "the best the Warriors have against the best the Cavaliers have." It was a schedule loss for the Cavaliers, and they took the L. There are still things for them to improve upon.
3. Curry was better than his stat line would suggest
Curry started missing everything once the lead was out of control, but this was the Curry you want to see for Golden State. He was on-ball, chucking it from deep constantly, making the crazy "Steph Gonna Steph" shots that so many of his young fans adore. But this way more than shooting. Curry only had three turnovers, and his defense was aggressive and effective. Curry struggles in single coverage, but he's disruptive when helping. He came weakside on LeBron on this play and straight up robbed him.
4. Warriors sent a lot more at LeBron
James was sloppy and careless; one one possession in the first quarter he came off a pick, had a switch against JaVale McGee, and opted for a pull-up 28-foot 3-pointer with nine seconds on the shot clock. But if you're looking for actual tactical adjustments the Warriors made, here's one. They sent way more at James in pick and rolls. Golden State has traditionally switched constantly; it's their hallmark. They don't have to use traditional coverage because of their athleticism and skill. But knowing how James has dominated them in previous matchups, they tried something a little different.
That's a minor change that had a big impact. James had six turnovers, two assists, and the worst plus-minus of his career (minus-35).
5. They still don't like each other, and this was a message about that
Golden State was amped for this game more than any other this season, and that's including the beatdown of Oklahoma City. Draymond Green picked up a flagrant when LeBron James had a monster flop, and then mocked James for it.
Warriors' Draymond Green hard fouls Cavaliers' LeBron James & then mocks his flailing (all angles) pic.twitter.com/rzOTYiXhFt— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) January 17, 2017
The Warriors poured it on in this game, and they needed to. After losing to the Cavs four times in a row, they had to stem that bleeding and make themselves feel a little better about last June. They led for most of the Christmas Day matchup, and they dominated the Cavs here. They are still the best team in basketball, at least when it comes to the regular season. These aren't the Cavaliers-Warriors we'll presumably see come June, but they also showed James and the company that they are not a pushover, the Cavs are not in their heads, and they are hungry to avenge last June. Oh, and they have Kevin Durant. That too.
6. Warriors still thrive on chaos
Golden State pushes the ball constantly, and they are still the best team in the league in chaotic situations. Sometimes it's not even intentional, like this hilariously awesome sequence, but it shows what they can do:
The Warriors have looked stiff at times, and have missed the kind of blitzing runs they went on in this game. Those runs where you just can't do anything and they convert turnovers to 3-pointers to stops to 3-pointers to turnovers to dunks relentlessly. That's still the best version of this team. Now, can that hold up through the playoffs? They've struggled with that adaptation, but they've also made two NBA Finals and won a title. It's just a reminder that this is what makes them the best they can be.
Now we wait six months for when these two get to renew their rivalry -- no matter what James says of it -- in the Finals. We know the Cavs will roll through the East. Given what the Warriors showed Monday, you have to believe they'll do the same, and the drama will be high for Warriors-Cavs Round 3.