Most people were expecting a hotly contested series as the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers were set to battle in the NBA Finals for a third consecutive season.
This opinion was justified. The Warriors hadn’t lost a game in the 2017 playoffs leading up to the Finals, and the Cavaliers only had dropped one single game.
But after Golden State handily defeated Cleveland in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series, followed by a 132-113 blowout victory in Game 2, the narrative is starting to becoming increasingly clear: These Warriors might just be too good for LeBron James and Co. to handle.
The Cavaliers knew they got punched in the mouth in Game 1, and as expected, they came out hungry and determined Sunday night. While Cleveland’s offense was functioning at a high level as usual, one piece of it noticeably was different: James.
While James has taken the role as the offensive facilitator in recent years, he totally abandoned that mold in Game 2. He was relentless attacking the basket, imposing his will on the Warriors in the interior. James’ tenacity showcased itself in the box score. He finished the night with 29 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds. But even on a stellar night, his performance wasn’t even close to enough to even the series.
It’s entering “broken record” territory, but the Warriors simply are too dangerous. Kevin Durant (33 points, six assists) followed up a tremendous Game 1 with another great performance Sunday night. Klay Thompson finally broke out of his slump with 22 points to go along with seven assists, and Stephen Curry registered his first career playoff triple-double with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
The scary part is the Cavaliers also received strong nights from its other stars outside of James. Kevin Love scored 27 points, while Kyrie Irving wasn’t far behind with 19. Cleveland hung tough early on and was only down by three at the half, but a Golden State offensive onslaught in the second half sealed its 2-0 series lead.
The Cavs were able to point the finger after Game 1. They committed 20 turnovers and weren’t very efficient from the field. But both of these facets were improved Sunday night. Cleveland shot a respectable 45 percent and only gave the ball away nine times. In fact, the Warriors were the ones struggling to control the ball early on. They committed eight turnovers in the first quarter, yet they still scored 40 points in the frame.
At this point, the Cavaliers, and James specifically, have to be asking themselves what more they can do. Cleveland pretty much was unbeatable as it rolled through the Eastern Conference, but Golden State is a whole different animal.
With the Cavs down 2-0 in the series, many will bring up their comeback in last year’s NBA Finals. Cleveland was down 3-1 in the series before putting together a miraculous comeback to win the title in seven games.
But these Warriors are leaps and bounds better than last year’s crew, and “King James” might have to relinquish his crown.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images