With almost eight minutes to go in Game 2 last night – with a nearly 30-point deficit in an NBA Finals matchup – Brandon Rush drove baseline against Cleveland and scored against three defenders. The only issue: just one of those three provided resistance, with just the man under the basket even putting his hands up to defend the shot.
There was surrender sometime after halftime from the Cavaliers in this game, and that’s not something that you can really blame them for.
Even asking the most casual basketball fan, you’d be hard-pressed to find more than just a few minutes of this series where it ever felt that Cleveland had much of a chance to win either of these two games. Sure, much can be placed on the team, and we’ll talk about that in another piece, but this series has been all about watching the greatness that has been the Golden State Warriors.
We saw this in the regular season, but the postseason has seen some skewed results for just how good Golden State is. The Warriors were marred by injuries in their first round matchup against Houston and for the beginning of their second round series against Portland. Still, neither series felt remotely close, and Golden State’s second-tier stars, with Curry sitting out, handled an upstart and athletic Portland squad, and a talented Houston outfit that was a Western Conference Finals team a year ago.
Last series against Oklahoma City, the Warriors were pushed to the absolute brink. Curry struggled, as did Draymond Green, and the Thunder were longer, more athletic, and bigger inside. But following Game 4 in that series, the light has turned on for Golden State.
After going down 3-1 against Oklahoma City, the Warriors have rattled off five straight convincing wins. The Warriors average margin of victory in those five wins is a blistering 14 points, and they haven’t seen a game closer than seven points. Aside from two games against OKC, the Warriors haven’t even been tested in the fourth quarter of those games.
This matchup with Cleveland isn’t like OKC, however. The Cavs just don’t have the length and athleticism that the Thunder had, and the Warriors have hit their stride.
Draymond Green isn’t struggling anymore, and Games 1 and 2 have seen him return to his All-Star level form. Green scored 28 in Game 2, including five from the three-point line. Green has been incredible in this series, forcing Kevin Love into uncomfortable shots and creating havoc on the offensive end. With Green on the floor, the Warriors have four players that can stroke from distance, and have spread Cleveland thin defensively.
The scariest part about Golden State is that these crushing victories in the first two games have come with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry taking a smaller role. Cleveland has double- and sometimes triple-teamed the ‘Splash Brothers’, and the Warriors are still winning big. Curry’s shot has struggled to return to great form in this series, but it hasn’t mattered. The players around the two are stepping up, and the Warriors are rolling without star power fueling them.
The depth of Golden State is eating Cleveland apart, just as it did in last year’s Finals. Just in the last five games, four different Warriors have been the decisive player. Curry was the MVP of Game 5 and 7 and Thompson decided Game 6 against OKC, but Shaun Livingston and Draymond Green decided Game 1 and Game 2 of this series.
The Warriors are talented everywhere, with the second and third units of guards in Livingston, Leandro Barbosa and Brandon Rush punishing teams with the same pace and space play that dooms teams against the starting lineup. Iguodala has returned to his Finals MVP level in these playoffs, setting a smothering tone in conjunction with Harrison Barnes.
The frontcourt of Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao have also allowed the Warriors to limit opposing teams going big on them, and prevent a large rebounding gap.
The Warriors can play any multitude of ways, and are absolutely blitzing in every facet of the game. The Warriors are deep of every position, and this team is every bit as good as advertised.
After Game 2, Klay Thompson took a playful jab at his dad, Lakers great Mychal Thompson, by saying that the Warriors “are better than the ‘Showtime’ Lakers.” While playful, the Warriors have every reason to be that confident. The debate around this team isn’t whether they are one of the best teams of all time, but rather whether they are the best team of all time.
The Cavaliers are too talented, and still have LeBron James, so they should take at least a game. But watching the first two games, it’s hard to justify saying that. The Warriors are great everywhere, and with all facets of their game firing on all cylinders, a second straight championship is in their hands. And it doesn’t look to be slowing down.
It’s a tough break for the rest of the league, because we are watching history – one deep ball at a time.