If anyone needed proof that that right now the Cleveland Cavaliers, with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, are no threat to the Golden State Warriors, came a crushing blow in the form of a 132-98 win in favor of the NBA champions.
Leading up to the game and through the Warriors rough patch (if two losses in three games can be called that), we mentioned a few times that Draymond Green is the key to getting back to the right and bright kind of basketball the Warriors had going for them through the first quarter of the season. Green, with 10 assists and 16 points, was the mastermind behind the Warriors locking down their defense, forcing the Cavaliers into bad shots and slower ball movement (although James and Irving do it themselves) and the fantastic passing on offense, leading to so many open and easy shots, most of them for Stephen Curry, scoring 35 points. Green also had a team-high 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.
It’s not that the Cavaliers shot so poorly or turned the ball over too much. A long period of garbage time helped them pick up their team stats. But when the game matters, which was the first half, they simply couldn’t keep up. Too slow, to vulnerable defensively, and at some point simply helpless. The Warriors kept knocking down 3’s to take a 26-point lead at halftime which grew to 37 points when the fourth quarter began. They hit 19 3-pointers in the game as opposed to just 7 by the Cavaliers.
With so many things looking inferior, it’s difficult pointing just to one player or thing and saying that was the issue for the Cavaliers, who have now lost five consecutive games to the Warriors including last year’s NBA finals. Kyrie Irving, as we said before the game, holds the key to the Cavaliers flourishing on offense and James having an easier time. Irving keeps showing inconsistency since his return, shooting 3-of-11 from the field and finishing with just 8 points. Cleveland, and James at this stage of his career, can’t win when their All-Star point guard is so bad.
But besides Irving not living up to expectations, there’s Kevin Love, who looks like one big mistake. Not just the contract extension he was given this offseason, but the overall idea of bringing him. It’s hard to say if sticking with Andrew Wiggins would have been the right choice, but Love is awful defensive and on offense brings nothing from his unique abilities to the floor. Maybe it’s the system, and then you can blame both David Blatt for not finding a solution and James for the way he plays sometimes which can kill the flow of the team when it’s struggling, but overall, Love has been a failure, while the Warriors are probably patting themselves on the back for not trading for him just over a year ago.
But… this is just the regular season. Playoffs, if these two teams meet again in the NBA Finals, are a different story, and as fun as it is to make fun of the Cavaliers for getting beat up at home like this, as James loses by 34 points for the first time in his career on the home floor and has a -35, his worst ever plus/minus, there’s a lot of basketball to be played this season, not to mention the Cavaliers not having to worry about the San Antonio Spurs waiting for them at some point during the postseason. But number 2: Both the Warriors and Spurs, right now, have nothing to worry about regarding anyone in the East.