Wrap-Up — Game 2 didn’t come down to questionable officiating, last-minute mental lapses or overtime theatrics.
It was about one of the most prolific offenses in league history doing their thing – jumping on the Cavaliers early and going wire-to-wire for the decisive 122-103 victory, taking a 2-0 series lead with the Finals heading back to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4.
It doesn’t take Dr. James A. Naismith to figure out the formula for Golden State’s success on Sunday night.
Four of the Warriors’ starters combined to go 26-of-37 from the floor and the fifth – Stephen Curry – set a Finals record with nine three-pointers. Role players, JaVale McGee and Shaun Livingston, were a combined 11-of-11 from the field.
Despite Golden State’s shooting display, the Cavaliers stayed within striking distance for most of the night – emptying their bench only after the Warriors used a 21-10 fourth-quarter surge to put the game essentially on ice late in the period.
The Warriors seemed to have a three-pointer in their pocket for every run the Wine & Gold made.
Cleveland trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, but continued to chip away through the second half. But Klay Thompson stymied two Cavalier runs – drilling triples each time the Wine & Gold cut the lead into single-digits. David West punctuated that frustration to end the third quarter, canning a bomb from right in front of the Cavs bench after Larry Nance Jr.’s free throws cut Golden State’s lead to eight.
It was Curry’s turn in the fourth quarter and his back-to-back daggers with early in the period upped the Warriors’ advantage to 13 points – 96-83 – after LeBron James’ long three-pointer got the Cavalier back to within seven.
After going off for 51 points in the series opener, Steve Kerr’s squad made James work uphill all night on Sunday. Cleveland’s four-time MVP still led his squad with 29 points on 10-for-20 shooting, but it simply wasn’t enough to match a hot Warriors’ squad that shot 57 percent from the field and canned 15 threes.
Still, LeBron finished just one rebound shy of his 10th Finals triple-double – pacing both squads with 13 assists to go with nine boards and a pair of steals. James was 2-of-4 from beyond the arc and 7-of-9 from the stripe in the loss.
The Wine & Gold were able to weather Golden State’s infamous third-quarter barrage behind the play of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson – who kept Cleveland in the game after intermission.
Love netted 13 of his 22 points in the third, going 4-of-4 from the floor, canning all three triples and both free throws in the period. Love, who went 7-for-18 from the floor on the night, doubled-up for the second time in two games – grabbing a game-high 10 boards to go with a pair of steals and a block.
Thompson, who was tossed from Game 1 late in the extra-session, was just as good in the third – tallying eight of his 11 points also on 4-for-4 shooting – adding five boards on the night.
George Hill was the only other Cavalier in double-figures – finishing with 15 points, three assists and a pair of steals, going 5-of-12 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from long-range.
Once again, the Wine & Gold didn’t get much from their bench.
Jeff Green led all reserves with six points, but the 10-year veteran was just 2-of-7 on the night. Including Green, the Cavalier reserves who saw significant minutes combined to go just 3-for-15 from the floor. Larry Nance Jr. led that group with six boards – snagging half of those off the offensive glass.
The Warriors didn’t need much from their second unit – but got 10 points from Shaun Livingston anyway – as the former Cavalier went 5-of-5 from the floor to go with five boards. Through the first two games of the Finals, Livingston hasn’t missed a shot in nine attempts.
Instead, Steve Kerr’s squad relied on their power triumvirate of Curry, Thompson and Kevin Durant – who combined for 79 points in the win.
Curry led everyone with 33 points, going 9-of-17 from three-point range, including a 5-of-5 mark from deep in the fourth quarter. Durant met little resistance, adding 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting while Thompson pitched in with 20 points, going 8-of-13 from the floor despite nursing a high-ankle sprain suffered in Game 1.
Fans expecting to see a physical battle following Thursday’s contentious overtime affair didn’t get their wish. The Warriors cut Cleveland’s defense up with surgical precision – shooting 65 percent in the first quarter and barely taking their foot off the accelerator from there.
”I didn’t think we started the game with the physicality we did in Game 1,” said Coach Lue after the loss. “It was too easy for them. They ran around a little too freely, so that’s how they were able to score and kind of get control of the game early.”
On the night, the Cavaliers shot just 41 percent from the floor, including 33 percent from long-distance. Included in their 57 percent shooting from the floor, Golden State was 15-of-36 from beyond the arc.
The Cavaliers were solid once again in second-chance scoring – outdoing the Warriors, 19-9 – and on the offensive glass, grabbing 16 boards to seven for Golden State. But the Dubs canned 10 more field goals overall, including their advantage from three-point range, sending the Wine & Gold home needing to hold serve to extend the series back to Oakland next week.
”We know that come Wednesday we’re going to have to be better,” said Kevin Love. “There’s a couple things, a couple coverages that we blew, a couple mishaps that we had on the defensive end, a couple lapses we had on the offensive end when things got stagnant. So we just have to be better, and I think just going home and being in front of our crowd for Game 3 of The Finals will be huge for us.”
Turning Point — Despite Golden State’s hot shooting, the Cavaliers came into the fourth quarter only down 10 – 90-80. And they got within a touchdown early when LeBron James drilled a long bomb from the top of the arc.
But Steph Curry found himself matched up against Larry Nance Jr. in back-to-back possessions – drilling his first of five fourth-quarter triples to put Golden State back up by double-figures and stepping back off a nice pump-fake to drill another for a 13-point cushion.
James scored on a dunk on Cleveland’s next possession, but the Cavaliers – who never led on Sunday night – couldn’t get back to within single-digits the rest of the way.
By the Numbers – 1,327 … points that LeBron James has now scored in his Finals career, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for second-place all-time (with Jerry West’s 1.679 points still ranking first). James finished just a single point shy of passing Michael Jordan for most postseason games of at least 30 points – needing one more to reach 110 and eclipse His Airness.
Quotable – LeBron James, on the questionable, critical blocking call against him with 36 seconds to play in regulation …
”I put our team in position to try to win a Championship, to compete for a Championship. It’s my job to make sure that we’re as focused, laser-focused, as possible – and continue to instill confidence into my teammates until the last horn sounds. That’s my job. That’s my responsibility. That’s my obligation, and I need to continue to do that, which I will.”
Up Next — The 2018 NBA Finals now shift back to Cleveland for the next two – with Game 3 going down on Wednesday (6/6) at The Q and Game 4 taking place two nights later (6/8) – both 9 p.m. starts. From there, it’s back to Oakland for Game 5 the following Monday (6/11) with Game 6 back in The Land on Thursday night (6/14). Should the Finals reach the limit, Game 7 tips off the following Sunday, June 17 at 8 p.m. at Oracle Arena.