The first meeting between The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors since Chef Curry and The Pot Cookers took out King James and his compromised court in the 2015 NBA Finals, resembled a poor game of H.O.R.S.E. rather than a game featuring the NBA’s two top teams and the league's supposed two best players.
For one stretch of the third quarter these two teams abandoned any post-game basketball and just chucked and exchanged three-pointers. Curry missed a couple, LeBron missed, JR Smith missed, Klay Thompson...It was almost unwatchable for a moment. I get that airing threes is Golden State’s steez.
They are one of the most unique teams to ever win an NBA Championship, but I often wonder why every other team eventually falls into a trap of trying to beat them at their own game. It gets ugly, especially because 99.9 percent of NBA squads don’t even have one pure shooter on par with the long-range skills of the Splash Brothers
Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas told me a few months ago that all of the teams in the NBA play the same. The pieces may be different, but I see exactly what he means. The way Golden State plays basketball is only beneficial for them. Other teams try to get into a bomb squad battle with them and fail. If everyone is going to try and outgun Golden State as Cleveland did at times, then hand Luke Walton/Steve Kerr and the boys the shiny ball now. Mark Jackson feels what I’m saying.
Overall, those who came to see Curry and LeBron battle it out for “game’s premier player” were probably as disappointed as they were the first two games of last year’s NBA Finals when Curry’s jumper was colder than Queen Cersei’s heart from Game of Thrones.
Yesterday, the end result was a Golden State 89-83 win in what was an unusually low scoring game for the high-powered Splash Brothers and Co. (NBA’s leading offensive team averaging 115.5 points per game).
Cleveland kept the game close by playing the throwback, physical style that helped them push last year’s Finals to six games. LeBron and Co. held the Warriors to a season-low 89 points, helped by the fact that Curry only played 17 minutes in the first half. He briefly retreated to the locker room with a calf injury, but still managed 10 points at the half. Curry finished with a modest 19 points on 6-of-15 shooting as Golden State improved to 28-1, the best start in NBA history.
Once again, Curry got the publicity, the hype and props for beating Cleveland and James, who struggled to carry the offensive load for dolo (10-26, 25 points). James was criticized by some for his lethargic play down the stretch.
He had some moments where he dominated Golden State in the paint, but for the most part seemed to settle for long jumpers, failed to finish several layups and looked exhausted by the fourth quarter.
In a repeat of last year’s Finals, Curry’s ineffectiveness was masked by the other down-for-the-crown players surrounding him, while Kyrie Irving (4-of-15 stroking) and Kevin Love (10 points, 18 rebounds) -- Cleveland’s other big guns-- struggled offensively and offered little help to James down the stretch. The Warriors weren't stressing Curry’s game because rising star Draymond Green, scored 22 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished seven assists overall. And Klay Thompson (the overshadowed net swisher) chipped in 18.
Golden State led for most of the game, but their 10-point lead in the fourth quarter was cut to just three points in the final minutes after the streakly LBJ decided to start going strong to the hoop instead of copying the perimeter-oriented game of the Warriors. You are NOT going to beat them at that game and I wonder why teams are intent on trying to match Golden State trey-for-trey instead of asserting their inside game early.
That seems to be the only way for a team to get under Golden State’s skin. They do a better job than most with Curry, but unlike James, his supporting cast comes to play every night. I mean, Curry’s backup Shaun Livingston played a better game than Chef, hitting 8-of-9 shots for 16 points in 22 minutes.
The highly anticipated matchup was probably a Finals preview, but it was a dud of a game. The two anointed Gods of NBA basketball had very pedestrian performances and both needed help from teammates to get the mission accomplished. Similar to last year’s Finals, Curry always has a bail out plan, LeBron has to take it on his shoulders and sink or swim. Right now, Love’s game is as small as the kid he portrays on that dumb The Hoopsters commercial. Irving is still working his way back from injury and quiet as kept, James doesn’t look as up to carrying weak ass teams through four quarters of basketball anymore. To avoid a repeat of last season, he needs to get on the Steph Curry, “There are other dope ballers on my squad” insurance plan. Right now, LeBron has too much liability.