* * *
What’s your biggest takeaway from Warriors-Cavs II?
* * *
Steve Aschburner: I walked out of Quicken Loans Arena Monday night thinking that maybe we don’t want to see a “Finals IV” after all. I’m not suggesting that there’s a bigger gap between Golden State and Cleveland than there might be between the champs and a different Eastern Conference contender. But we keep seeing the Cavs falling short and, frankly, their repeated regular-season drama – a by-product of a veteran team “navigating” rather than seizing the first 82 games — has grown stale. Look, it could be I’d like to see two new Finals participants just for something fresh — this is uncharted territory for the NBA — but there’s an inevitability about Golden State. Maybe the Raptors, the Celtics, the Wizards or another East team would get smacked down as unworthy substitutes. But maybe they wouldn’t.
Shaun Powell: The Warriors are who we thought they were; the Cavs, not so much. Isaiah Thomas isn’t quite comfortable with his body or his teammates yet and Cleveland’s defense still reeks. In time, these issues can be improved to some degree, enough to confirm that nobody in the East is beating Cleveland four times in a playoff series, not with LeBron James (I’ll believe it when I see it). But that’s probably Cleveland’s ceiling unless the Cavs make a move at the trade deadline, and even then there will be questions about the acclimation of a new player, too.
John Schuhmann: I didn’t have a strong takeaway from that single game, but have taken note that the Cavs rank 24th offensively since their Christmas loss in Oakland. We know that they’ve been a terrible defensive team save a nine-game stretch in mid-November, but they’ve been able to get by with an elite offense that makes up for their defensive mistakes. Isaiah Thomas obviously needs some time to get back to being himself, but offensive struggles like this indicate that there’s more to worry about than just the usual bad habits and bad personnel on the other end of the floor. Of course, the last time the Cavs had a worse 10-game stretch offensively was right around this time last year. So I’ll remind myself to never put too much emphasis on the regular-season struggles of a LeBron James team.
Sekou Smith: The biggest takeaway from yet another Warriors-Cavaliers matchup is just how large the gap is between the two teams. This started in The Finals last June and has continued to progress through the completion of these two regular season matchups. Right now, the Cavaliers don’t match up nearly as well against the Warriors as it seemed they would. The Warriors have continued to fortify their roster, first with Kevin Durant and then with additions like rookie Jordan Bell and veteran Nick Young. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers’ roster changes have not produced the immediate dividends in the wake of Kyrie Irving’s departure. Granted, Isaiah Thomas is just getting started in his comeback. And Dwyane Wade has shown that he still has plenty left in his tank. But the Cavaliers are struggling under the weight of expectations that the Warriors using to fuel their fire, their chemistry is in question and perhaps Kyrie was far more critical to the operation than we realized.