The Golden State Warriors steamrolled the Cavaliers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, winning 110-77 in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 19,596 inside Oracle Arena. The Warriors did so using the same combination — an imposing defense and offensive contributions from unexpected places — that brought them success in Game 1.
The only difference was this time it proved even more effective.
Golden State was dominant on offense, shooting 54.3 percent overall and 45.5 percent from three-point range. The Warriors were possibly even more dominant defensively, holding the Cavaliers to 35.4 percent shooting overall and 21.7 percent from three-point range and turning 18 Cleveland turnovers into 26 points.
Individually, Golden State again received contributions from up-and-down the roster, led by a stellar all-around performance from Draymond Green (28 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and improved showings from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson after both played poorly in Game 1.
Cleveland, meanwhile, got virtually nothing from anyone besides James. Kyrie Irving finished with 10 points on 5-for-14 shooting, and Kevin Love had five points in 21 minutes before exiting with dizziness in the third quarter.
It all added up to this series going back to Cleveland for Game 3 Wednesday night with the Warriors looking like they won’t be getting nearly as tough a test from the Cavaliers as they did from the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals.
“I’m not disappointed in our guys or frustrated,” James said. “We’ve just got to do a better job. We’ve got to be better in all facets of the game, both offensively and defensively, both physically and mentally.
“We didn’t win anything. [At] no point in the game did we beat them in anything. Even when we had an early lead, they beat us to 50-50 balls, they got extra possessions, they got extra tip-ins . . . they beat us pretty good tonight.”
Each of the last four years, James had been a member of a team that lost Game 1 of the Finals. And, in each of those four years, James had been able to get a victory in Game 2 to even the series.
He didn’t come anywhere close to replicating the feat Sunday night. While his counting stats looked respectable — 19 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and four steals in 33 minutes — James committed seven turnovers and shot 7 for 17 overall and 1 for 5 from three-point range. Despite the fact that Cleveland’s second-leading scorer was reserve Richard Jefferson, who had 12 points, James shouldered as much of the blame as he could.
“The next couple days . . . I won’t be reflecting,” James said. “I’ll figure out ways I can be better, starting as soon as I leave this podium. Probably go back to the room and watch the game, re-watch for ways I could have been better.
“I’m one of the guys who always wants to shoulder the blame and take the blame when we don’t play as well as we should. It’s just who I am, and I’ve got to be better.”
The Cavaliers started the game decently, taking a 21-19 lead after the first quarter thanks to Golden State committing six turnovers in the first 12 minutes. But the Warriors went on a 20-2 run over a five-minute stretch early in the second quarter, turning a 28-22 deficit into a 42-30 lead — one Golden State wouldn’t relinquish.
Then, as the game slipped away from Cleveland in the third quarter, things went from bad to worse when Love exited the game after experiencing dizziness shortly after the start of the second half. Love had been hit with an inadvertent elbow in the head by Harrison Barnes as Barnes drove to the basket midway through the second quarter.
After staying on the ground for an extended period of time, Love was able to walk off under his own power, and despite the lengthy time he was on the court — and the clear pain he appeared to be in — he remained in the game.
Once he came out of the game in the third, though, he didn’t return. The Cavaliers later released a statement saying that Love never exhibited any symptoms of a concussion before the third quarter and that he has been placed in the league’s NBA Concussion Protocol. After the game, Cavaliers Coach Tyronn Lue said the only update on Love’s condition was he’s day-to-day.
Love certainly wouldn’t have been able to make up the difference Sunday — particularly while his opposite number, Green, was having such a dominant performance. Green has become a star in the NBA because of his ability to do a little bit of everything.
He is the league’s most versatile defender, proved by his back-to-back runner-up finishes in defensive player of the year voting. He’s one of the best ballhandling big men in the league, often serving as Golden State’s point guard.
One thing Green isn’t known for, though, is scoring. And after Shaun Livingston led Golden State with 20 points off the bench in Game 1, it was Green who played the leading role in Game 2, knocking down five three-pointers and committing just one turnover in a masterful performance.
“The way they are playing defense against our guards, Draymond is going to be open,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s a good three-point shooter. We like when he gets those shots in rhythm, and he knocked them down tonight.”
The difference between the two starting power forwards was emblematic of the gulf between these two teams. As this series shifts from one side of the country to the other, the Cavaliers will spend the next three days searching for some — or any — answers to try and shrink it.