After a 122-103 pounding at Oracle Arena, the Cleveland Cavaliers head back to the Q down 0-2 to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Cavs didn’t play as well as they did in Game 1, but they weren’t bad, the Warriors were just much better. Game 2 was won by Golden State, rather than lost by Cleveland.
As a team, the Cavaliers shot 37-90 from the field, or 41%, compared to the Warriors’ 47-82, or 57%. From beyond the arc, Cleveland went 9-27 (33%) and Golden State was 15-36 (41%). Stephen Curry alone hit as many threes as the entire Cavs roster. The Warriors just shot the ball much better than the Cavs. There’s not a whole lot you can do about that.
Cleveland’s perimeter defense wasn’t bad, although they gave Golden State plenty of easy buckets inside early in the game. This lack of shot contention lead to only 15 fouls being called on the Cavs, compared to 25 for the Warriors.
Cleveland went 20-26 from the stripe, while Golden State was just 13-21. Free throw shooting was something that the Cavs needed to do better than the Warriors to have a chance. However, even meeting this goal wasn’t nearly enough.
Another big indicator of success is the fast break, and the Cavs kept things close, being outscored 17-12 by the Warriors. But again, it wasn’t enough.
LeBron James again led the Cavs in scoring with 29 points on 10-20 shooting, along with nine rebounds, 13 assists, and two steals. The amount of missed shots off his passes so far in this series is staggering; he should have around 50 assists instead of 21.
James attempted only three shots in the fourth quarter, as the game snowballed out of control early, and he was able to sit for the final four minutes.
Kevin Love scored 22 points and grabbed 10 boards, but he was just 7-18 from the field. In the first half, he was just 2-10, so he was much more efficient after halftime. But Love needs to be more consistent over the entirety of the game, and that may require a change in playing style.
Love excels at drawing fouls in the post, but the referees so far have not been giving him calls, instead opting to allow the players more room physically. There were a few instances of Love driving hard to the basket through contact and finishing. This needs to happen much more often, rather than him backing down a smaller player, missing a turnaround shot and hoping for a foul.
George Hill had a decent game, scoring 15 points on 5-12 shooting and playing solid defense. The more catch-and-shoot opportunities Hill gets behind the three-point line the better.
Tristan Thompson had a confusing performance. He scored 11 points, but only grabbed five rebounds. Both Curry and Shaun Livingston had more rebounds than Thompson. For a player on the floor to rebound, this is unacceptable.
J.R. Smith was the only starter not to reach double digits in points, finishing with five points on 2-9 shooting. Smith has played very poorly this series, and his playing time would be much less than it is now if Dwyane Wade were still on the team or if Rodney Hood wasn’t in Ty Lue’s doghouse.
Excluding garbage time, the Cavaliers bench combined for 11 points. A pathetic outing from the reserves with some players doing worse than others. Kyle Korver was able to attempt only three shots in his minutes, making none. Jeff Green had six points on 2-7 shooting in 20 minutes, and Larry Nance Jr. missed his only shot attempt while playing for 12 minutes.
Speaking of garbage time, the Cavs were able to empty their bench, and things didn’t go too poorly. Ante Zizic had two points in three minutes; Cedi Osman had two points and a rebound in four minutes; Jose Calderon had four points, two rebounds, and an assist; and a Rodney Hood sighting was made, as the shooting guard had two points, a rebound, and an assist.
Obviously, things aren’t working out so well for the Cavaliers right now, so maybe it’s time to replace players like Smith and Jordan Clarkson with the younger guys for a few minutes here and there.
After an off night in Game 1, Kevin Durant rebounded in a big way, scoring 26 points on 10-14 shooting. He also had nine rebounds and seven assists. He was able to play much better in part because he had defensive mismatches often, as George Hill and Kevin Love found themselves guarding Durant all too often. Jeff Green needs to play more as he is Cleveland’s best defensive option against Durant, aside from LeBron James.
But the biggest story of the night was Stephen Curry, who scored 33 points on an NBA Finals record nine three-pointers. The shots he knocked down were just ridiculous, including a buzzer-beating heave from nearly half-court after nearly losing the ball, and a three-pointer while he fell out of bounds after drawing a foul from Kevin Love. There’s not much the Cavaliers can do when Curry is on fire like he was on Sunday.
The Cavs historically play much better at home, and they hope that trend continues over the next two games. Both games are must wins, as losing another NBA Finals in Cleveland would be devastating.