POSTED: Jun 6, 2016 2:15 PM ET
2016 Finals Game 2 Mini Movie
The Warriors dominated Game 2 of the NBA Finals with the help of Draymond Green's 28 points to take a 2-0 lead over the Cavaliers.
Many of the quick turnarounds in Finals coverage focused on Cleveland's miserable performance Sunday in losing by 33 points to the defending champions. LeBron James aided and abetted that perspective by shouldering responsibility, particularly for his seven turnovers, and vowing to be better in Game 3 Wednesday night back home at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cavaliers on Game 2 Loss
Tyronn Lue and LeBron James address the media following the Game 2 loss to the Warriors.
But in the 12 hours or so after the lights went out at Oracle, a different version of what has transpired so far in the championship round was taking hold. And it was healthy. Regardless of what the Cavaliers are or are not doing, the Golden State Warriors deserve more credit. They aren't merely the defending champs -- they're defending champs who have gotten appreciably better.
In fact, it's safe to say that this Warriors team might be doing to last year's Warriors team what it currently is doing to Cleveland (of course it's safe to say, because there's no way to prove that hypothetical wrong). Golden State this season has an MVP in Stephen Curry who is better than his former self. Klay Thompson's star continues to rise. Draymond Green is at the peak of his powers now at both ends of the floor. The bench is deeper, big man Andrew Bogut is able to contribute more in his stints, Steve Kerr has two full seasons under his belt as coach and on and on.
The Cavs are better this year, too, primarily because they're healthier than the 2015 Finals crew. But they haven't improved as much, year over year, as Golden State has. And while the Warriors' progress has been pretty much a straight line trending up, Cleveland has done the two-steps-forward, one-step-backward shuffle in swapping out defense for offense.
The reason the first two Finals games have looked like teams from different decades going at it is the versatility of the Warriors, particularly on defense. The ability to switch at almost every matchup maintains the integrity of Golden State's defensive formations -- it's harder for opponents to collapse or turn inside-out that defense, so Cleveland's perimeter shooters are more readily contested by the bodies closest to them.
The Cavaliers, by contrast, have good offensive players and good defensive players -- but few players who are good at both. A year ago, Cleveland was able to grind on Golden State because James was posting other-worldly numbers (he led all Finals players in points, rebounds and assists) and, thanks to the necessity of teammates' injuries, grinders like Matthew Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert were logging considerable minutes.
This year, James has yet to "take over" (as much as that's possible) The Finals. Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith -- all known and paid for their offense, not their defense -- are on the floor more than the Cavs' role players, and their team is paying a defensive price for it.
Love missed the final three rounds of the 2015 postseason, his left arm in a sling after surgery on his dislocated left shoulder rendered him a spectator and cheerleader for the Cavaliers. Now Love's participation in the Finals is in jeopardy again, the result of the inadvertent elbow he took to the back of the head from Golden State's Harrison Barnes in the second quarter of Game 2.
Love Leaves The Game
Kevin Love leaves the game in the 2nd half after experiencing dizziness and gets placed in concussion protocol.
Love's determination to continue was obvious; after falling to the court and holding his head for an uncomfortably long time as the game continued, the Cavs' power forward re-entered the game and promptly hit a 3-pointer from the left corner. But Love was on Rubber Legs St., his dizziness finally ending his night in the third quarter. Now he's in the NBA's concussion protocol, which means passing several medical, mental and physical thresholds before he can be officially cleared to return to action.
There are those who will suggest, per No. 2 above, that Cleveland might be better off without Love, given the struggle he has had against Golden State's Green and his unreliable shooting (9-for-24) through Games 1 and 2. But that ignores the effectiveness Love developed deep into the season from his third-option spot in the Cavs' pecking order.
Cleveland needs more Love, playing better, rather than less. But if he's still groggy, dizzy, nauseous, sensitive to lights or any of the concussion tell-tale signs, there might not be enough games left in the series for Love to return and make a difference.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr defined his idea of good shots and bad shots shortly before tipoff Sunday, which is to say, he explained the extreme green light that shines perpetually for his backcourt marksmen, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
"Those guys are allowed to take any shots they want," Kerr said, unconcerned about any double-standard accusations. "That's the rule. Steph and Klay are, nobody else is. I trust their judgment. ... Bad shots for those guys, it's a different definition from everybody else."
That said, Draymond Green launched a campaign for some green-light love himself with his 11-for-20 shooting, including 5-for-8 from the arc, en route to 28 points. That earned him Splash Brother-for-a-night status, to much teammate teasing and delight.
Said Kerr: "The only one I didn't love was the one off the dribble from the top of the key that he made."
Nightly Notable: Draymond Green
Draymond Green goes off for 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists to lead the Warriors over the Cavaliers in Game 2.
Pardon the Cavaliers if they can relate a little bit to the Toronto Raptors and the Atlanta Hawks, two of the three teams Cleveland eliminated in earlier rounds. The way Golden State whipped the ball around to set up deep strikes in the second half Sunday, you wondered if some Cavs might whine afterward about excessive ball movement the way some Hawks took exception to Cleveland's many 3-pointers.
Meanwhile, the Raptors played Cleveland in the East finals as if they were hothouse flowers or some other precious cargo that didn't dare leave the friendly confines of home. The Cavs are a better team at Quicken Loans Arena than they are when playing elsewhere, with a 40-8 mark (regular season and playoffs combined) compared to their 29-21 road record. LeBron & Co. has outscored opponents at The Q by an average of 20.9 points in these playoffs. On the road, they have been outscored by an average of 1.9 points.
Golden State is Golden State, though a little less so when budged from the Bay Area. The Warriors are 50-3 at Oracle this season and postseason, compared to 37-11 when playing elsewhere. And a key contributor such as Green, for example, who had a net rating of plus-17 in home games, was a more mortal plus-10 on the road.
It's a small consolation and might not mean nearly enough for Cleveland to win the two games it must have Wednesday and Friday to push this series toward something special. But it -- and perhaps a resurgent LeBron, aggressive and engaged at both ends -- might be the best shot the Cavaliers have.
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