Even without LeBron James on the floor, this was an interesting matchup because two men were present who many thought should’ve been a part of the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors. Mark Jackson called the game for ESPN, and Kevin Love started for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Besides maybe Joe Lacob, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut (more on that in a bit), it’s doubtful that anyone at Oracle harbored ill feelings toward Jackson. But from the start of this game — which ended in a 112-94 Golden State victory to cap a perfect and lopsided six-game stretch in Oakland — it appeared that two of the players who could’ve gone to Minnesota in exchange for Love had something to prove.
Draymond Green blocked two shots before two minutes had elapsed, the second coming when he stuffed Love after Cleveland’s power forward tried to fool Green with a head-fake close to the basket.
Love had a better shooting night (6-for-11, 1-for-2 on threes) than Green (5-for-13, 0-for-6 from behind the arc), and ended up with 17 points and 14 rebounds. But Green did everything else better, showing himself to be the more multi-dimensional player. Green grabbed 11 rebounds of his own, and frequently led the break himself. He blocked three shots and dished out eight assists (including two beautiful lobs — one on a close-range pass to Andrew Bogut, who threw it down with one hand, and another to Harrison Barnes from just past halfcourt).
— Alex Torres (@alextorresww) January 10, 2015
Not that Green had anything to prove with Love in the building. Oh wait, he totally felt that way.
“He’s supposed to be here, (isn’t) he? I like the challenge. And I was looking forward to it. And that was a game that I was really looking forward to, a matchup I was really looking forward to,” Green said.
“He’s a good player. He got whatever he had, but at the end of the day I think I had a pretty good game against him, did a pretty good job. But I was looking forward to that.”
Green was one of many players rumored to be in the mix when the trade discussions between the Warriors and Timberwolves dominated the news last summer. Klay Thompson was the player with whom the Warriors decided they couldn’t part (reportedly, anyway), and he followed up his 40-point outing against Indiana with 20 points in the first half on Friday night.
Thompson left the court for a while after sustaining a cut on his forehead that required seven stitches, and that wound appeared to be the only thing that could’ve cooled him off. He finished with 24 points, and the idea that the Warriors made the correct decision when they stood pat this summer — as far as Love was concerned, anyway — was further cemented.
— The Warriors had the advantage in fastbreak points (36-3) and assists (35-13). The Cavs look like a team that’s feeling their way through the season, and not having an incredible amount of fun in the process. The body language at times (from Love, in particular) wasn’t the best, despite David Blatt clapping more than any NBA head coach I’ve ever seen.
— Green was kind in his assessment of why the Warriors played like a team while the Cavaliers looked like a bunch of individuals: “You’ve got to kind of expect that, don’t you? You’ve got J.R. (Smith, who they just acquired) out there, who’s new. Obviously he doesn’t know all the sets. They probably ran four or five sets … they do have some guys that can go one-on-one and when you don’t know the offense, you’ve got to create something.”
— The average score during the six-game homestand: Warriors 118, Visitors 96.
— “It was unfortunate that (Thompson) got hit because he was really rolling,” said Steve Kerr. “Best part of all of that was that Justin Holiday came in and did what he’s been doing for the last month. He had 14 points for us with good defense. That’s a hard team to guard as well, with Kyrie and J.R. and Justin was on those guys. His ability to guard and hit shots is just huge for us. That’s why he seized this opportunity to back up Klay.”
Holiday may have gotten a little extra run due to Thompson’s injury, but this game answered one thing about how Kerr will divvy up minutes for all of these capable players.
The new head coach will not make playing time decisions based on favoritism, salary or reputation. Holiday played 18 minutes. David Lee (who actually came through with a nice block on Love himself) was on the court for 17 minutes.
— The Warriors showed Mark Jackson on the scoreboard during a timeout in the first quarter for quite some time. A lot of fans stood, most cheered (and pretty loudly, too), and Jackson looked pretty emotional. Nothing was said over the P.A., which was probably for the best. The breakup wasn’t mutual in this case, and feelings were hurt, but Jackson did get this group of players to play defense and believe in themselves.
— According to the Mercury News, which documented a lot of Jackson’s quotes during the game, he mostly took the high road. However, there were a couple of interesting ones.
“Steve Kerr has done an outstanding job. They’re sitting, the best team in basketball today. He deserves a lot of credit. I think while giving him credit, there’s no need to take credit away from the past. You cannot disrespect the caterpillar and rave about the butterfly.”
“To me, a rim protector is overrated in this league. You look at the Warriors. No Andrew Bogut, their defense stays or even improves because of the identity, because of what they force you to do.”
As Bogut left the locker room, he smiled, put his arms up in the air, and said he was going to go home and work on his rim protection. Then he dropped this not-so-subtle retort:
Really RATED that win! #goDubs
— Andrew Bogut (@andrewbogut) January 10, 2015
— Curry played close to a perfect offensive game (23 points on 8-of-15 shooting, 10 assists, one turnover). He had two free throws, three straight assists and a shot from close range to push the lead from nine points to 16 in the closing minutes.
— Like this team as a whole, it’s getting difficult to come up with more and better superlatives to describe Curry’s game. Just one question: When’s he going to start getting calls? He’s been attacking the paint quite a bit, and his touch is so fantastic (especially off the glass), but he’s drawing a lot of contact without many trips to the line for how famous and good he is.
— Speights had a weird game. He spent a lot of time on the floor (literally, like splayed out on the floor) and fouled out. Maybe almost getting mugged the other night in San Francisco is still affecting him.
— You can tell the Warriors REALLY want to get Holiday (a pretty impressive leaper) a lob. I think Andre Iguodala has tried (and failed) to do so at least four times in the past two weeks. I asked Green about that. “We’ll get him one. We’ll definitely get him one.”