2017 NBA Finals: Warriors vs. Cavaliers
What went right, wrong for Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors in Game 2
Cavs were down 2-0 in last year's Finals ... but this could be different with Durant's arrival
• Game 2: Full analysis, reactions
• Complete coverage of The Finals
OAKLAND, Calif. — Steve Kerr and Klay Thompson were back Sunday. In different ways, but familiar sights again after re-emerging to give the Warriors even more to feel good about, just in case controlling the game and The Finals as a whole isn’t enough.
LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry were still there, greatness extended to Game 2 and Golden State’s 132-113 victory over Cleveland at Oracle Arena that was worth a 2-0 lead on another night when a lot went right and wrong.
Right: The return of Steve Kerr
Kerr back on the sideline would have been a huge positive development Sunday no matter how the game turned out. That it came as a package deal with a Golden State win made the moment complete. Kerr had missed the previous 11 games with the same illness that sidelined him the first 43 contests of the 2015-16 regular season, a mix of severe headaches, nausea and dizziness as part of complications from 2015 back surgery. He had returned as a constant around the team, attending practices and routinely addressing the Warriors in the locker room, but Sunday was a new step. And a big one. The plan is to coach, full time, the rest of the way.
Wrong: J.R. Smith
Game 1: Twenty-eight minutes, three points, one of four from the field, zero assists, zero rebounds, one foul, two turnovers. Game 2: Fourteen minutes, zero points, two shots, zero assists, two rebounds, one turnover, four fouls. Two of the fouls were in the opening 2:11 of the third quarter, essentially ending his night while coach Tyronn Lue searched elsewhere for answers. Cleveland has gotten three points and one basket in six attempts over 42 minutes from its starting shooting guard. Now to see if Lue does not wait until the second half to begin his search in Game 3.
Right: LeBron James
One of the great playoff runs of his career – and that’s saying something – continued with 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting, 14 assists against four turnovers, 11 rebounds and three steals. James was in attack mode from the beginning, trying to set a tone and hoping his teammates would follow. He led the Cavaliers or tied for the lead in several categories and, in what should stand as one of the impressive stats, played another 39 minutes at an elite level. That’s 79 minutes the first two games, moving James to 40.7 as the best player of the postseason.
Wrong: Warriors ball handling
An obvious positive in Game 1 was a problem in Game 2 the Warriors did not try to downplay. It wasn’t just the whiplash of going from four turnovers on Thursday to 20 on Sunday, leading to 23 points for Cleveland. It’s how many were unforced, without much ball pressure from the Cavaliers, while the Cavs flipped in the right direction by going from 20 turnovers to nine. Stephen Curry had eight of Golden State’s 20, the drawback to a night that otherwise included 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. “There’s an eight on the stat sheet that I need to correct when we go to Cleveland, because the points that I gave up off turnovers in their building will electrify the crowd and their team and the things that we have to eliminate,” Curry said. “So I’m obviously hard on myself and my own biggest critic at times, and that’s something that I can control, just being smarter with the ball.”
Right: Klay Thompson
Oh, yeah. Him. While Durant and Curry were typically outstanding, even if there is nothing typical about doing it in The Finals, Thompson had a throwback game, to some distant time known as the regular season. The offensive slump in the playoffs that had dragged him under to 36.6 percent from the field and 13.8 points the first 13 games gave way to 22 points while making eight of 12 shots overall and four of seven behind the arc. He also had seven rebounds and continued with a critical contribution on defense. If Thompson sustains this and Sunday turns out to be more than a temporary good moment with the ball, the climb just got a lot steeper for the Cavaliers.
Wrong: Both defenses
Maybe the offenses were that good. Maybe there should be praise, not criticism. But both teams struggled to get stops. The 131 points — Warriors 67, Cavaliers 64 — was the most in the first half of a Finals since Game 2 of Lakers-Celtics in 1987. By the end of Sunday, Golden State had posted 132 points, even with the 20 turnovers, plus 51.7 percent overall and 41.9 percent on 3-pointers, while Cleveland was at 113 points, nine turnovers and 45 percent, respectively.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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