OAKLAND, Calif. -- Champagne was available, but the Golden State Warriors ended up quaffing something more bitter, if not insipid, en route to a 112-97 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers' two-man offensive explosion. The Warriors played with little force or focus as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving stomped their way back into these NBA Finals.
The Warriors lacked Draymond Green, which makes this performance somewhat explainable, but not exactly excusable, either. First, it’s not as though Green is blameless for his absence. Second, the home crowd certainly showed up from the jump, primed to exhort their undermanned team forward.
Great teams have won in less dire circumstances and, frankly, with better defensive efforts. While James and Irving were both beyond spectacular (41 points apiece on 54 combined shots, the first 40-point Finals game by teammates), they were also allowed to get comfortable from the start. Once the duo got rolling, they never really stopped. James regained his recently absent jumper and was an all-around force beyond that. Irving delivered an incredible exhibition of shot-making, using the glass in ways that taunted physics.
A fourth-quarter sequence in which Stephen Curry and Harrison Barnes both missed wide-open 3-pointers was made especially painful after a careless turnover from Andre Iguodala, followed by a brilliant Irving and-1. It was a tight second half for Golden State, after what had been an incandescent first two quarters. By the end of it, the Warriors had made just 3 of 21 3-pointers in the second half, a solitary 1-of-10 in the final frame.
At the start of this game, Golden State was comfortably part of this shootout, especially Klay Thompson. The All-Star 2 guard had 26 points in the first half, punctuated by a 31-foot 3-pointer, his sixth triple of the half. The Warriors as a whole went 11-of-21 from deep in that opening half.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, their shooting proved less sustainable than their shoddy defense. Eventually, the Warriors’ shots went begging, as the Cavs continued to surge.
Curry will receive a lion’s share of blame, as he missed some shots he usually sinks. Also, the comparison to Irving’s performance reflects poorly on the MVP’s. He can find redemption in Cleveland, but it will surely be a long flight.