Stephen Curry runs circles around Cavs as Warriors take 2-0 NBA Finals lead: Takeaways
Game 2 featured Curry and Kevin Durant combining for 59 points on 40 shots
Despite another valiant effort from LeBron James, the Golden State Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals with a on Sunday. James finished with 29 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds, but the Warriors led wire-to-wire and shot 57 percent against an overmatched Cleveland Cavaliers defense.
Stephen Curry scored 16 of his game-high 33 points in a dominant fourth quarter, with eight assists and seven rebounds. Kevin Durant was the picture of efficiency, scoring his 26 points on 10 for 14 shooting and adding nine rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. Golden State shot 15 for 36 from 3-point range as a team, while the Cavs shot just 9 for 27.
1. That's what an onslaught looks like
Your answer to the question, "When did the Warriors stick the dagger in?" might differ, but this felt over to me less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. Jeff Green airballed a hopeless jump hook, then Curry pushed the ball and set up Draymond Green for a 3-pointer with no one in Green's vicinity. Rather than taking the shot, Green went good to great, knowing that Curry would relocate to the corner. A pump fake sent Larry Nance Jr. flying, and Curry was suddenly open for a look that is a lot like a layup for him:
Maybe you watch that and want to blame LeBron for failing to contest Curry's shot. Maybe you even want to call out Green for turning down such an open look. When I watch it, though, I see a perfect example of how much pressure Golden State puts on its opponents' defense. While it is easy to scream, "How can you ever leave Curry open?!" at your television, it is exhausting to keep track of him all game when he rarely stops moving.
Later in the fourth quarter, here's another example of Curry relocating to the corner, this time getting a 4-point play out of it:
Curry including a moonshot over Kevin Love that would demoralize anybody. This is exactly the sort of thing that you fear when you waste an opportunity to steal a road victory against the Warriors the way the Cavs did in Game 1. It is also the kind of performance that could set Curry up for his first Finals MVP award.. Five of them came in a spectacular fourth quarter,
2. LeBron at the elbow = scary, but …
Directly after that Steph 3 at the top of this story, the Cavs got the ball to James at the elbow, where he made a perfect pass to Love for a point-blank layup. They got a lot of mileage out of simply stationing James there and having everybody else screen and cut -- the moment Golden State lost track of anybody, James would capitalize:
While this was successful, it is difficult to get too excited about James' production or Cleveland's effort as a whole. The Cavs did well to hang around for most of the game, but it feels like James either needs to score 40-something points or his supporting cast needs to be lights-out in order for them to keep up for 48 minutes. Maybe they need to run that elbow set more often; maybe they just need the Warriors to make more mistakes on the other end so they can get out in transition.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr offered only moderate praise for his team's defense on LeBron, saying that "we at least made him somewhat uncomfortable at times." That was enough to stop Cleveland from being amazing on offense, and this particular team needs to be amazing on offense because the other end of the court is a massive problem. The Cavs are trying to defend Golden State the way the Houston Rockets did, with all sorts of switching and physicality away from the ball, but they do not have the same sort of personnel. They have to be extremely disciplined on defense in order to make things tough on Curry and Co. consistently.
3. McGee, McGood
Kerr elected to start JaVale McGee in Game 2, an adjustment that was foreshadowed when McGee started the second half of the opener. It would be crazy to give the center all the credit for the Warriors making 10 of their first 11 field goal attempts, but his presence certainly didn't hurt. McGee got wide-open dunks on their first two offensive possessions, and his rolls to the rim and vertical spacing tend to make life easier for everybody else.
The issue with McGee has always been his decision-making, particularly on defense. When the team can get by on that end with him, though, it is obvious why Golden State's stars have always loved playing with him: McGee runs the floor hard and dunks everything around the rim. In the third quarter, Durant pushed the ball after a made basket and ran a quick pick-and-roll with McGee, creating an easy two points:
The craziest part of that play: There are 19 seconds on the shot clock when McGee catches the ball with no one in between him and the basket.
4. Quiet Korver
The Warriors deserve credit for blanketing Kyle Korver wherever he goes. He went 0 for 3 and scored one point in his 17 minutes, and he has a total of 10 points in his last four Finals games against Golden State, dating back to last season. Korver was en enormous part of the Cavs' series against the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors and had a couple of standout games against the Boston Celtics, too. This series presents an even bigger challenge for him defensively, but in the minutes when he is on the court, Cleveland needs to do a better job of using his gravity -- even if he barely touches the ball.
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