For the second straight game, with their backs against the wall, the Cleveland Cavaliers responded in emphatic fashion, again controlling the Golden State Warriors to force a deciding Game 7 on Sunday night.
This game seemed to get away from an early stage, with Cleveland jumping out to an 8-0 lead to start the game, which would turn to 31-11 by the end of the first quarter. Those 11 points are the lowest number for a quarter for the Warriors all season, and their offense aside from Steph Curry looked absolutely lost in the first quarter.
Cleveland pressed the issue early, using Kyrie Irving and LeBron James on highball traps and sets to force Curry and Thompson to distribute to the other members of their offense. And for tonight, that wasn’t the best idea, as the offense around them struggled, with even Klay struggling mightily in the first half, missing seven straight threes to start the game. Andre Iguodala, the catalyst for the Warriors’ ‘Death Lineup’ was hobbled and dealt with injuries for the majority of the game.
But the biggest hole for Golden State was the massive disappearance of Harrison Barnes. Barnes started 0-5 in the first frame and never recovered, going an abysmal 0-8 and barely factoring in the offense at all. Even Shaun Livingston, the Warriors’ top man off the bench, struggled mightily on offense and defense in this game. The lone bright spot from the bench was Leandro Barbosa, who added 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting to keep the bench afloat.
The first half saw Curry keep Golden State in it, but the second half was dominated in the early going by Klay Thompson, who went on a tear and cut Cleveland’s lead to single digits seemingly on his own. But eight points would be as close as they would get, as Cleveland kept a distance down the stretch to keep it out of reach.
This game was all for the King. LeBron James led the way again for Cleveland, putting together another superhero effort, tallying 36 points, 11 assists, 8 boards, and 4 steals and 3 blocks. James was everywhere, stomping every Warriors attempt at a comeback, and playing the enforcer on offense. James was 3-6 from deep, and didn’t shy from the deep shot at any point. He played masterfully, and played in all but three minutes of the game.
James had some help, obviously, with Kyrie Irving having another solid game, scoring 23 points on 40% shooting. Tristan Thompson had the game of his life, shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, playing 43 minutes, and gathering 16 rebounds. Thompson was great on defense, limiting Draymond Green and providing solid perimeter defense when called on against smaller players. The bench also played well enough, but was sparingly used with the minutes from James.
The game saw a brief period of competitive play following the Warriors run to close the deficit to single digits. But Cleveland never let Golden State off the mat, keeping the lead the same distance before finally running away.
The late run from Cleveland was highlighted by some weird final minutes for Golden State. Steph Curry collected an abundance of fouls late in the game, including three on questionable touch fouls. The final one, a light hit on Kyrie Irving, saw Curry foul out with just over four minutes remaining. Curry, in protest of the questionable call, flung his signature mouthpiece, hitting a fan in the front row and sparking a brief confrontation ended by a laughing Curry being escorted off the arena floor. It was certainly an odd finish for Golden State, but a bad one nonetheless.
Almost nothing that Golden State liked to do was working, with the Splash Brothers struggling, Iguodala injured, and the bench shrinking in the opposing floor of Cleveland. For fortunes to turn around in Game 7, at least two of those three are going to need to fix themselves, with home court not being enough to close out Cleveland on its own.
But for all of Golden State’s struggles, James was outstanding. LeBron has carried his team to this point, and finally has the Cavs playing the way he wanted – albeit with a little bit more of the offensive load than he’d prefer. His hard work has paid off, with Cleveland one game away from their first championship, in what will be the biggest game of James’ career thus far.
This series, while full of blowouts, has seen it’s share of drama. Game 6 did not disappoint, with Curry showing emotion, he and LeBron trading barbs, and an obvious undertone of sheer bitterness between these two teams.
Who knows what happens on Sunday night, but is there any better way to end the season?