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Warriors Poised to Deliver Crushing Blow to Cavs in Game 2
The Warriors look to take commanding two-game lead
There is a silver lining to the Cleveland Cavaliers' giant letdown in Game 1 of the NBA Finals: Things cannot get much worse.
The Cavaliers lost by 22 points, and it was never really close. Despite the Cavaliers hanging around through the first half, the Golden State Warriors felt like they were in control from the second quarter on. Kevin Durant was making beelines toward the bucket untouched, and the Warriors' defense was smothering LeBron James, along with every other member of the Cavaliers.
That Cleveland trailed by only eight points when the first two frames concluded is nothing short of a miracle. LeBron committed seven turnovers through the first 24 minutes, and no one outside him or Kyrie Irving was picking up the slack.
It was then that things unraveled and offered cause for more doubt.
The Cavaliers couldn't hang in the second half. They committed turnovers. They were blitzed in transition. They weren't making the right defensive rotations. No one was crowding Stephen Curry, who feasted on pull-up threes in the third quarter. The good shots the Cavaliers created, they failed to hit. They canned just 36.8 percent of their uncontested looks, according to NBA.com, which can't happen when you're going up against a Warriors squad that specializes in running the break with lightning speed after grabbing opponent misses.
Worst of all, the Cavaliers lost the battle they needed to win.
Acting Warriors head coach Mike Brown, like actual head coach Steve Kerr before him, likes to rest Curry and Durant at the start of the second quarter together. If the Cavaliers are going to keep LeBron on the floor during this time, it better be to win the plus-minus battle. And yet, they didn't.
In the roughly five minutes the Cavaliers played with LeBron when Curry and Durant were taking a breather, they were a minus-three, according to NBA.com. That may not seem like much, but it's a big deal. Your best player shouldn't be facing a deficit when their two best players are out of the action.
Some of these issues will correct themselves. Tristan Thompson will have a better game. Kevin Love should to more than shoot 4-of-13 from the floor. One of the Cavaliers' role players should pop.
But what happens if someone from Golden State does the same?
While Draymond Green and Klay Thompson both played inspired defense, they combined to go 6-of-28 on the offensive end, including 2-of-13 on uncontested field-goal attempts. Think that's going to happen again?
Cleveland's only hope at making up this talent deficit is to slow things down, something it failed to do in Game 1. Even then, you don't like the Cavaliers' chances. And it doesn't have much to do with them. They're an exceptional basketball team. They might rebound from their Game 1 implosion.
Problem is, the Warriors won by 22 points, and still have another level they can, and probably will, reach.
The Pick: Golden State Warriors (-9)
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