After three losses in four games, the Cleveland Cavaliers, with LeBron James this time, are back to winning. Following four losses in five games, the Oklahoma City Thunder tasted victory again. But does it matter? When at the end of the rainbow there’s a Golden State Warriors waiting, it sometimes feels all this is in vain.
The Cavaliers beat the Indiana Pacers in another less than smooth game offensively for a team that seems to have regressed under Tyronn Lue. The Cavs won 100-96 with 33 points from LeBron James, this time not needing him to pull up for a game changing shot. Instead he added an important assist to Tristan Thompson as the Cavaliers took the lead late in the game and didn’t let go, following two consecutive losses, one of them without James playing.
The Thunder took out their frustration from losing to the Warriors on a last second heave by Stephen Curry (which is almost like a layup for him) and getting crushed by the Cavaliers in the same week against the Sacramento Kings. Teams that force the Thunder to think and make it difficult for them to thrive in their wild mode of basketball, which is pretty much Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant running amok, usually find ways to make it difficult, despite all of their talent.
The interesting thing about the Thunder and the Cavaliers is their matchup with the Thunder. Despite losing twice to the Warriors this season, many think the Thunder have the best shot of upsetting the Warriors in the playoffs, in a series. They’re not favorites, not even close, but they do present problems for the Warriors that the only way to solve them, possibly, is Curry going out and making history each and every night. The problem with Curry this season is that he just might be up for the challenge.
The Cavaliers matchup terribly with the Warriors from what we’ve seen this season, and even if they can make it difficult on them for part of a series, it’s hard seeing them lasting and beating them in one. Lue hasn’t shown he has some special power of making this team change its basketball or turning LeBron James into the player the Cavaliers need. The defense problems and the repeated offensive stagnation? It’s probably gotten worse.
The Thunder are the dream matchup for the Cavaliers in the finals. But we’ve been through this, and as much as the Cavs might be crossing their fingers that the Thunder somehow finally figure out how to play smarter basketball without obstructing the individual talent of Durant and Westbrook, it’s hard seeing it happen. In general, this whole NBA season feels like 29 teams watching the Warriors go for the repeat while breaking the regular season wins record, and as amazing as Stephen Curry might be on some nights, it’s bad for the league to have no one keep up with this kind of historic dominance.