Monday, June 5, 2017

Warrios - Cavs Game Two: 132 Points, 20 Turnovers

More Drama Than This Series
You can look up and down the box score all you like in NBA games, honestly. Sometimes the answers jump out at you from careful study, or from comparative analysis against the other team; I prefer head to head numbers, myself, especially when teams aren't so kinetic on ball movement. You can get into plus/minus, look at disparities among rebounding, consider assist to turnovers, look at the hidden hustle numbers around deflections, along with the more obvious block and steal numbers...

Or you can look at just the note that I put in the headline, and try not to giggle.

Cleveland came into this game with the right mindset: slow it down, thug it up, try to get the Dub bigs in foul trouble and prevent the Killing Tempo that eventually causes teams to fade in the rear view mirror. It worked for a while; the first half was close, and the Cavs kept answering haymakers with counters. For about 2.5 quarters, it was the Finals that people wanted, and some hope in corporate circles for a long and lucrative series had to fire in every network heart.

And then the Dubs stopped turning the ball over, and the haymakers weren't answered. LeBron James started settling for jumpers, and they started to flatten out a bit, because even the best player in the history of the Association will succumb to fatigue, age, and depth.

By the end of it, it was just another easy Dub win, with the added flavor of Stephen Curry getting a triple double to alleviate some poor shooting and turnovers, Klay Thompson looking just a smidge like himself from a year ago, Kevin Durant taking another step toward a Finals MVP award, and Steve Kerr getting back on the sideline despite his health woes. Game Three, and the last chance for this series to go more than five, is Wednesday in Cleveland.

After eight quarters of this, the following points are very, very clear.

> Cleveland isn't in the same league as the Warriors on defense. James isn't the same suffocating presence he's been in the past, because he's got to be everything on offense. Tristan Thompson has been MIA for two games, and the guys who are supposed to be their wing defensive hammers (JR Smith, Iman Shumpert) haven't been anything very special. The Dubs just swing the ball until they find out a closeout that doesn't quite get there, and then they take advantage.

> Durant is earning the MVP on defense as much as offense. On a team with Draymond Green and JaVale McGee, Durant has been the best interior defender and rim protector, and his thirst for boards has been exemplary. He's been an absurd shot-maker on the rare times that the Dubs get deep into the clock, but tonight, he stood in for a foul-prone Green and the game didn't change.

> Curry is Curry again. He might not be at the downright comical level that he was in the regular season of 2015-16, but he's not far from it, and his singularly irresponsible impact on the way hoop will be played for the next 20 years isn't changing at all. There's going to be hundreds of college and pro players who pull up from 30 feet in an attempt to be Just Like Steph, but the difference is that when he does it, it's a bad idea that's bailed out by otherworldly skill and a taste for the jugular. When those other guys do it, it'll be about stats and rep.

> The Dub defensive switches are insanely good. You pick and roll these guys and just go from one monster to the next; Iguodala, Thompson, Durant, Green, all of them arms and attitude and length and hunger, and even Curry will body up the presumptuous and hold the fort until help arrives. James looked exhausted in this game long before it was out of reach, and while Kyrie Irving can do some things in iso, what makes the Cavs special -- a bunch of guys with crazy open looks at 3s from their favorite spaces on the floor, with James serving them up looks like they were blue plate specials at the diner -- hasn't been on the floor for the first two games, because those shots aren't very open any more.

Can the Cavs win Game 3 and make this a series? Sure. The Dub benchies might fail to show on the road, the way benchies do. Thompson might show up at home, and that could be a big difference maker. The Dubs could get sloppy and showy, the way they tend to when they've been playing with the lead all game. Someone important could get hurt. The refs could decide someone important for the Dubs needs to be in foul trouble. There's a reason why no team has ever won 14 straight playoff games before; what the Dubs are doing right now is insanely hard to do, and rare.

But, um. Still. 132 points with 20 turnovers.

Kind of a pretty big margin for error, yes?

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