The Golden State Warriors were back to their usual selves in Game 2 of the NBA finals, dominating the Cleveland Cavaliers on both sides of the court to win 122-103 and take a 2-0 series lead. Stephen Curry led Golden State with 33 points, scoring an NBA finals-record nine three-pointers.
Cleveland’s JR Smith went into Sunday night with a lot to prove – and make up for – after his blunder in Game 1 prevented the Cavs from winning in the final seconds of the series opener. He was met with ironic cheers from Golden State fans when he came onto the court, and the crowd chanted “MVP” as he went to the free-throw line. The pressure got to him: he ended the night with just five points and one rebound. After the game Smith described his performance in one word: “terrible”.
After losing Game 1 in dramatic fashion, the Cavaliers looked gassed from the start on Sunday and couldn’t keep up with Golden State’s speed. The defending champions got off to a hot start with 7-7 shooting and kept rolling. But they didn’t just outscore Cleveland – they out-assisted and out-blocked them too.
Cleveland had more steals and more rebounds, with fewer turnovers, but had a tough time scoring – they shot only 42% to the Warriors’ 57%. Indeed, the Cavs didn’t make a shot for almost five and a half minutes in the second quarter. If they are to avoid the dreaded 4-0 sweep, they will need to make some serious adjustments when they head back to Cleveland for the next two games.
The Warriors – mostly Kevin Durant – smothered LeBron James on defense, guarding him closely and holding him to only 29 points on 50% shooting, seven points of which came from free throws. Coming off a historic 51-point performance in Game 1, James played all but four minutes of the game but couldn’t carry his team to victory. Meanwhile Durant, who was named finals MVP last season, scored 26 points with seven assists and nine rebounds.
“The defense in general, not just Draymond [Green] but KD and our young guy … did a good job,” said the Warriors coach, Steve Kerr. “We just played a more intense defensive game tonight than we did in Game 1”
The Cavaliers coach, Tyronn Lue, paid tribute to his players for keeping the game close until the fourth-quarter but admitted the Warriors were the better team. “I didn’t think we started the game like we needed to start,’ He said. “I think not being physical enough … With that being said, we still fought and clawed back at the end of the quarter, being down four, which was good for us. But we have to start the game better, being more physical, and we didn’t do that tonight to start.”
Klay Thompson, who took a tumble in Game 1 but did not appear to be seriously affected by injury on Sunday, played cautiously as he added 20 points.
“I didn’t realize how much you use your ankle until you hurt it,” said Thompson after the game. Curry, who has a history of ankle injuries, chipped in with his own thoughts: “You should have asked me,” he noted.
Shaun Livingston and Green filled the Andre Iguodala-shaped hole in the Warriors’ defense. In the meantime, Kerr says Iguodala had even entered the huddle and given suggestions. “Andre knows the game as well as anybody,” said Kerr. “He’s been a great mentor for the younger guys in this group the last few years. He’s doing everything he can while he’s on the sidelines to help us out.”
The teams travel to Cleveland for Wednesday’s Game 3 at the Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavaliers have not lost at home since the first-round of this year’s playoffs.
“[The Cavaliers] have been down 2-0 in  and came back to win it,” Thompson said. “This team plays great at home, and we expect their other guys to play even better at home, too, not just LeBron. So we’re not going to relax at all because this team has been down and out before.”