The Golden State Warriors are halfway home to their second consecutive NBA championship following a 110-77 spanking of the Cleveland Cavaliers to give them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Here are my five takeaways from Sunday night at Oracle Arena:
▪ No. 1: Draymond Green, Splash Cousin
You expect Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to make a bushel of three-pointers. But Draymond Green? That’s not in the typical Warriors game plan.
With the Cavs collapsing on Curry and Thompson, Green found himself all by his lonesome on the perimeter. The versatile forward made them pay, draining a playoff-high five threes (one more than both Curry and Thompson) that accounted for more than half of his 28 points.
Green even started channeling Curry, copying the two-time MVP’s trademark shimmy after one of his swishes.
“Tonight, he was one of us,” Thompson said when asked if Green can apply to be an honorary Splash Brother. “Especially the shots he made off the dribble from three. You know, those aren’t easy, fading away.”
Yeah, we know.
My teammates trust me to take those shots. They find me, and it’s up to me to knock them down.
Draymond Green, on his five three-pointers
It was the 87th victory Green has played in this season, equaling Michael Jordan and Steve Kerr (yup, him) of the 1995-96 Bulls for the most in NBA history.
▪ No. 2: Mental hurdle or physical mismatch?
The Warriors now own a seven-game winning streak over the Cavs dating to last year’s Finals. Average score: 107-88.
No, that isn’t particularly close.
Asked if his team has a “mental hurdle” against Golden State, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue gave a shot put answer.
“I don’t see a mental hurdle,” Lue replied. “I just think we know we’ve got to play better. It isn’t anything mental. We’ve just got to play harder, play better, and we’ll be fine.”
Even with the Warriors in total command of the series – 28 of the previous 31 teams with 2-0 leads in the Finals went on to win the title – they aren’t being fitted for championship rings quite yet.
90 Percentage of teams that win the NBA title after going up 2-0 in the Finals.
“We haven’t really accomplished anything,” Curry insisted. “All we’ve done is protect home court.”
“We’ve got to get two more wins,” Green echoed, “and those are the hardest two wins of the entire season.”
▪ No. 3: LeBron’s LaMent
One of the biggest points LeBron James made following Game 1 was that his team could not allow the Warriors to score 25 points off 15 turnovers.
So what happened in Game 2? Golden State scored 26 points off Cavs 17 turnovers with James himself coughing up seven of them.
“I basically had half the turnovers,” he said. “So I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to be better with the ball. You know, trying to play-make for myself and play-make for my teammates at the same time, I’ve just got to be more solid.”
James finished with 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, so it’s not as if he had a lousy game. But his -20 plus/minus (the point differential when he was on the court) is telling.
We have to play better. The guys are not discouraged. More pissed than anything.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue
▪ No. 4: No Curry, no worries
It was still a competitive contest (57-46) when Curry went to the bench after picking up his fourth foul, a needless reach-in, with 8:42 left in the third quarter.
Time for the Cavs to make a run? Not exactly. Golden State instead used the MVP’s absence to display its depth and superb ball movement. By the time the quarter ended, the lead was 82-62 and the game essentially over.
Curry did not reenter until the start of the fourth quarter, and by then there was really no need. He finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes.
▪ No. 5: Big guns fairly quiet again
It’s no surprise the Warriors are up 2-0. What’s surprising is they’ve done it without significant scoring from their two best offensive players.
Curry averaged 30.1 points during the regular season. In the first two games of the Finals, he’s scored a total of 29. Thompson averaged 22.1. In the first two games, he has 26.
Yet the Warriors won both games handily (average margin of victory 24 points) with the supporting cast stepping into the spotlight.
“We’re doing it by committee, and everyone’s playing their role,” Curry said. “The crazy thing is we can all play better.”
If the Warriors do that, this series probably doesn’t come back to Oracle.