With Golden State’s Game 2 win taken care of, it’s best we check in on the winners and losers from Sunday night.
The first-year Warrior didn’t land a career high in Game 2, he didn’t notch a triple-double and he spent the better part of the fourth quarter on the bench of Golden State’s 132-113 blowout win. None of the typical hallmarks were in place, outside of his reliably timed cadre of brilliant basketball highlights.
Durant was a flash throughout Game 2, easing his way into wherever his Warriors needed him most on both sides of the ball, overcoming early defensive confusion and the presence of LeBron James to offer 33 points on 13-22 shooting with a team-high five blocks and Golden State-best 13 rebounds. Durant added six assists and three blocks in his seventh NBA Finals game against Mr. James:
Fans of the Triple-Double
Stephen Curry and James melded as well as Durant, often as spectacularly, in Game 2. The result of their ubiquity was a hand in possession after possession and a triple-double for each.
Curry was active throughout, hitting for double-figure free throws early toward his way into ending marks of 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He almost achieved a Finals first in notching the championship round’s first quadruple-double, finishing with eight turnovers.
He somewhat made up for the misstep with the win, and this jaw-dropping routine in the realm of LeBron:
James was no slouch, matching Curry with his eighth career Finals triple-double. In hitting for 29 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds, LBJ tied Magic Johnson for the all-time Finals lead with eight triple-doubles. Nobody else has two.
Prior to Sunday, the NBA Finals had never seen a pair of opposing players place triple-doubles against one another.
Working in his first NBA game since stepping aside following Game 2 of his team’s first-round series against Portland, Kerr looked to be ill at ease at times on the sideline as he continues to struggle with his very public and too-slow return from a 2015 back surgery. He gritted throughout, per usual, but the ABC cameras caught him grimacing and pinching his eyes too often for anyone to conclude that Kerr was anywhere near being fully comfortable.
To the outsider it hardly mattered, because Kerr was right at home. A familiar presence at Warriors practices despite missing his team’s previous 11 games (all wins), Kerr was right to heap credit on interim head coach Mike Brown before the victory, as the Warriors played as if nobody was missing throughout Kerr’s absence. They played as if nobody had returned in Game 2, all business as usual except for an extra chair on the bench.
We may not see Brown performing the same expert relief work for the rest of this series, as Kerr told reporters before Game 2 that he was determined to see his return through the rest of the Finals. In a championship setting full of players working at perhaps their absolute best, with an all-time team seemingly on its way toward coronation, Kerr’s comeback has us grinning the most.
Tyronn Lue’s resources
The Cleveland Cavaliers coach is running out of options, after the Warriors put up 113 and then 132 points in consecutive games in Games 1 and 2.
Lue’s starting lineup remained in place, but helper J.R. Smith continued to struggle – missing both of his looks after clanging on three of four attempts in Game 1. One 3-pointer, taken while contested off the dribble after passing on an open previous look, was an obvious attempt at getting going.
Nothing was going. Channing Frye (1-4 shooting) was inserted into the rotation prior to reminding us why the lights-out shooter shouldn’t be asked to finish around the basket if he’s living in any time past 2010. Deron Williams is now oh-fer nine on the series after missing all five looks in Game 2, while Iman Shumpert clouded his good defense by missing five of six looks (taking Cleveland out of its offense, such as it was at the time).
Meanwhile, Tristan Thompson played active enough basketball to leave you certain and unworried about his attitude and motivation moving forward, but his matchup ability in this series (through little fault of his own at this point) is in question.
The Cavs moved quickly in the first half, not only settling into offense early but making decisions with the ball far quicker than Golden State was used to initially. Kevin Love was the immediate beneficiary, hitting for 27 points on the night on 12-23 from the floor, taking advantage of swift post-ups and leaks into open spaces. James, meanwhile, dished 11 assists in the first half alone, adding 18 points. Alacrity was the order of the day, and the result of that near perfection was a back-and-forth game to start.
The air was escaping throughout, though, as the two coaches traded on-court quips in their attempts to find the next obvious hole in the opponent’s rotation. The Cavaliers stopped being dangerous once they stopped taking chances, and stopped making immediate movements with the rock once gathering the ball in a potent position.
Once Cleveland’s edge left, the Cavs were left without their one great chance in this series – matching Golden State basket for basket, prior to letting LeBron run wild in the fourth quarter.
Fans of competitive basketball
The fourth quarter was a barely watched affair that featured Derrick Williams, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For the second straight game NBA viewers had little reason to remain in front of the glow beyond the midway mark of the fourth quarter, as the Warriors turned in yet another one-sided win after what felt like a promising first half.
That’s all NBA fans have at this point: promise. The hope that not only will Cleveland’s outlook improve (and its shots spin true) at home, but that it will be enough to not only tie the series, but possible do it through games that entertain past the time of the evening when the local UHF channel starts showing “Seinfeld” reruns.
The ratings won’t suffer and nobody can fault either team’s precision, talent or effort. It’s the televised package, from beginning to end, that has yet to take hold.
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