The Cleveland Cavaliers played much better in Game 2 of the NBA Finals Sunday night. They couldn’t be any worse than they showed in Game 1. It did not matter, though.
The Golden State Warriors continued to shoot from downtown, and they were scoring at will in the paint just like they did in Game 1. There was no way the Cavaliers could do anything about it, even if they tried to play physical.
When the Warriors are playing at their best, there’s no team that can beat them even if they played their best. That’s what it came down to Sunday night in the Warriors’ 132-113 victory over the Cavaliers at Oracle Arena, giving them a 2-0 series lead against their Eastern Conference counterpart with the series shifting to Cleveland Wednesday night.
This has to be discouraging for the Cavs. They can say their role players have to play better, and that they do considering J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver and Tristan Thompson have been awful. They can talk about home-cooking, which role players tend to play better as basketball savant Hubie Brown would say. Still, what good will it do if the Warriors play like they did in Games 1 and 2?
LeBron James did all he could to lead the defending champions. He was the reason they were in the game in the first half when they trailed 67-64 over the Warriors at halftime. Therein lies the problem: If he plays like Michael Jordan and the Warriors can still lead by making their shots, how is that fair?
The game was over in third quarter when Stephen Curry was hot. In the game that he posted his first-ever postseason triple double (32 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds), he put 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists in that quarter. He did everything he could to dominate James on offense. When he got hot, the Warriors finished the third quarter by taking a 35-24 lead, extending their overall lead 102-88.
No one had to be a math major to know the Cavaliers were in a bit of a bind. The game was over by the fourth quarter.
Playing physical wasn’t going to work. Not when the Warriors have so many players that can beat the Cavaliers in many ways whether it’s shooting from the three-point line or scoring in the paint. It’s difficult to do, even if the Cavs tried to do that during the game.
This is so discouraging. Yes, it’s two games, and yes, the Cavaliers came from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Warriors last year, but one year has nothing to do with another. Here’s the difference from last year to this year: The Warriors are playing like a team with desperation, especially Kevin Durant and Curry, and they have Durant to make Curry’s job easy along with Klay Thompson’s and Draymond Green’s.
It could be a sweep with the way it’s going. We are in the belief that this series will go five or six games, but even then, the NBA can’t be happy about this result if it does not goes seven. This is not the product the league wants to sell.
It has not been a great NBA season despite the NBA having high ratings. In the first two games of the Finals, an average of 19.1 million people have watched the first two games. Still, the NBA can’t be happy with one great team, two above-average teams, so many mediocre teams and so many awful teams tanking to get the next James, Durant or Curry.
When NBA commissioner Adam Silver mentioned the Warriors as excellence in an interview with Fox Sports 1’s Colin Cowherd last week, it’s hard to take him seriously. There is no excellence when there is one great team filled with so much slops. This is not a product that would get people to watch. For the game to be over in the fourth quarter couple of times in the Finals, it should raise a red flag.
This is not the Warriors’ fault of course. They have done a great job getting players to fit the salary cap in order to sign Durant. There is nothing the league can do about it. Not when he was a free agent who used this opportunity to join a team of his choosing. The former Thunder star used the Warriors as an opportunity for him to win a championship with championship-caliber players.
There’s nothing the NBA could do about it. It was one thing when then-NBA commissioner David Stern put a kibosh on the New Orleans Hornets trading Chris Paul to the Lakers. The league was running the Hornets at the time, and they could not afford to help a big-market team while getting nothing in return. Plus, Paul was the Hornets’ property. It’s another thing for the league to control what a free agent should do.
There is nothing the NBA can do to fix this competitive imbalance, either. Unless teams step up to be great, it will be more of the same the next few years with the Warriors and Cavaliers playing in the NBA Finals Invitational. Only question this offseason will be how the Cavaliers find another great player to combat with the Warriors. That’s what has to happen if Durant and the Warriors are going to be defeated.
The league needed the Cavaliers to win Game 2 just to keep the ratings going. Yes, fans will watch Game 3 Wednesday night with the idea that the Cavs could benefit from playing at home, but even then, it may not matter if the Warriors keep shooting well no matter the arena. It will be hard to watch the rest of the series if the Warriors take total control of this series with a 3-0 lead. It’s simply going to be hard for James to will the Cavaliers to four straight wins after this deficit.
This has been an awful NBA Finals all around so far, and this could be on pace to tie the 2002 NBA Finals for the worst Finals ever. Unless the Eastern Conference champions change the narrative, this could be the Finals that everyone will forget.
This is not the excellence NBA fans have in mind. They have watched an entire season of awful pro basketball from the regular season to the playoffs to watch two great teams go at it in the Finals, and right now, the Warriors are treating the Cavaliers the way the Harlem Globetrotters would own the Washington Generals.
It should be expected the Cavaliers will show up for Game 3. But will it matter if the Warriors play like this in Cleveland like they have at Oracle Arena?
The Warriors served notice in the first two games that last year has nothing to do with this year.
It’s a message the Cavaliers understood fully well after the horn sounded in Game 2.