Cleveland, the factory of sadness and excuses, talks too much. Kyrie Irving said his team, if fully healthy, would’ve defeated the Warriors in the Finals. Cavs fans spent the offseason and part of this season making the same claim. Golden State beat the Cavs on Christmas, but Cleveland had another excuse: it was only Irving’s third game back. Just wait, Warriors. Just wait.
LeBron James told the world he was the best basketball player in it after a loss. That was before another loss, one which gave the Warriors their first championship in 40 years. Something irks James about these Warriors, Stephen Curry in particular. Curry is entering what used to be James’ territory. There’s a reason why James felt the need to say what he did after Game 5.
Curry made a totally innocuous comment leading into tonight’s Finals rematch, but James wanted to speak on it anyway.
“Obviously, walking in the locker room, it’ll be good memories,” Curry said. “Hopefully, it still smells a little bit like champagne.”
So what? I remember the smell, too. The Warriors’ locker room at the Q was comically small, and they sprayed enough champagne to fill Lake Merritt. I’ll never forget that smell, even though I went in there after the revelry had died down a notch and contributed nothing to their championship season. But James had something to say, according to Cleveland.com.
When LeBron James finished up his media address after shootaround this morning, he walked away asking reporters why no one asked him about Curry’s comments. He said he had an answer for it.
Oooh, the KING had an answer for it!
Apparently that answer was … (drumroll) Golden State 132, Cleveland 98.
Time to be quiet, Cleveland. Win your conference, keep practicing your dirty tactics, but leave the championship talk to the teams that play like, well, teams.
What’s the excuse tonight, Cleveland? Two days off after your six-game road trip wasn’t enough? Kevin Love was sleepwalking? Your best player on Monday night, J.R. Smith, got kicked out of the game for running through a Harrison Barnes screen?
Maybe Curry, the man who disrespected the great state of Ohio by daring to reminisce on the best night of his life, was just too damned good. Maybe the Warriors lulled the Cavs into thinking they’d be the same disjointed bunch that lost in Detroit and Denver. Maybe the Cavs thought Golden State would come in relaxed and happy, content to check the corners of their dank locker room for the scent of fermented grapes.
Remember these guys?
The Cavs should’ve gone into this game starved for an opportunity to get a little revenge against Golden State, but it was the Warriors who needed the kind of playoff reminder tonight provided.
After punishing themselves throughout their ludicrous 24-0 start, Golden State suffered a bit of a letdown. The defense wasn’t as fierce. The ball didn’t move nearly as much. Fatigue and injuries could no longer be ignored, and that included the symptoms felt by Steve Kerr. They were still on a 63-win pace over the 17 games that followed their historic winning streak, but something seemed different, and it was easy to notice. Sets weren’t as crisp. The defensive energy they were known for last year, seen in their seamless switches and gang rebounding, went missing for long stretches.
Until tonight. Led by Draymond Green’s 10 assists, the Warriors finished with 33 on the night. They seemed like a team that felt at home in Quicken Loans Arena, draining 19-of-40 threes. And the man who owned the Q in June, Andre Iguodala, enjoyed his best game of the season. Iguodala made 7-of-8 from the floor, including 4-of-5 threes, finishing with 20 points and 5 assists in 24 minutes. James hasn’t gotten any younger since last year, and Iguodala hasn’t gotten any dumber. The result: Iguodala solved the league’s most difficult defensive puzzle over the previous decade, and he played like he was crossing days off the calendar until this game.
But the Warriors take their cue from Curry, who looked every bit like like the best player in the world. He was in his element. He took threes from everywhere and made 7-of-12, went 5-for-6 on his two-point attempts, and finished with an easy (for us to say) 35 points in 28 minutes.
Meanwhile, the guy who had a prepared response to Curry’s champagne quote scored 16 points and finished a career-worst -34 on the night. Remember how the Warriors sucked the life out of the Rockets — a team they don’t like much — last year during the regular season, to the point where there wasn’t much doubt what would happen if they met in the playoffs? The Warriors did that to Cleveland tonight.
— Has Matthew Dellavedova infected the entire team? James tossed Curry to the floor near midcourt for no reason other than to send a message of some sort, but that was nothing compared to Timofey Mozgov’s actions on consecutive plays a little while later.
— Smith ran over Barnes and gave him some left forearm, but it probably wasn’t worth a flagrant 2. He can thank his own reputation (and perhaps those chippy plays from Mozgov) for that ejection.
— Iman Shumpert was on the edge of clean/dirty as well in this game. In a playoff series, sure. Do whatever it takes. Everything’s kosher. In a regular season game where you’re down double-digits throughout, fouling guys who are in the air does nothing but make your team seem desperate and frustrated.
— Do the Cavs actually run an offense or just kind of wing it on every play? What are they paying David Blatt to do, other than toss out a few interesting quips and look perplexed/annoyed during games?
— This is when everyone watching knew the Cavs were toast. Iguodala loves playing against this team.
The Warriors took a 52-32 lead with 5:52 left in the second quarter with Iguodala’s dunk. Their lead would never sink below 20 the rest of the way.
— I swear I came up with the headline before seeing this:
— LetsGoWarriors (@LetsGoWarriors) January 19, 2016
— Love looks like he hates it in Cleveland. Like LeBron is holding him hostage. So many isos and disjointed plays in Cleveland, and Love probably looks at the Warriors and wishes every day that they had pulled the trigger before last season.
— What happened to Tristan Thompson? Wasn’t he the second-best player the Warriors faced in the Finals? He gave his team next to nothing in 12 minutes, and he got the same contract as Green.
— This game didn’t prove anything. We all knew the champs could get back to this level at some point (many were figuring Jan. 25, when the Spurs visit Oakland). But this should quiet the “Where’s Kerr” questions for a bit. This is a team of adults. They don’t need to be berated to play hard, unless the goal is to win 75 regular season games and they’re guaranteed to listen 24/7 (hint: they aren’t). They know what they’ve done, and they aren’t afraid to go back to where they celebrated and remind everyone what they can do when they’re engaged and a little pissed.
— The Warriors led by 43 in this game against a Cavs team that was fully healthy. Watch for Cleveland to make a trade or two between now and the deadline after Monday night’s dose of reality. Excuses only take a team so far.