NBA Finals Game 2: Five things we learned

Jay Asser 6/06/2017
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CAVS CAN’T BE STUBBORN ON PACE

It seemed pretty obvious after the series opener that Cleveland had to slow the game down and grind it out, similar to how they played the Warriors the past two years, for them to have a chance.

And yet, all we heard from Cavs players leading up to Game 2 was how the pace wasn’t the problem, but rather the execution. Well, after surrendering 132 points in a game that featured 108.46 possessions, it’s time for Cleveland to adjust.

THOMPSON’S SHOT IS BACK

It was only a matter of time before Klay Thompson found his stroke in the playoffs. The sharpshooter’s offence returned to life in Game 2 as he made 8-of-12 from the field, including 4-of-7 beyond the arc to pour in 22 points.

Thompson was and continues to provide stellar defence on the other end of the floor, so his scoring at this point is just gravy for the Warriors. But it’s yet another reason for the Cavaliers to be demoralised as Golden State’s waves of attack just keep on coming.

IRVING NEEDS TO STEP UP

LeBron James was the number one reason why the Cavaliers won the title last year, but Kyrie Irving was clearly number two. These Finals have been a different story, however, as Irving hasn’t looked like the same player who went out of his mind last June.

There are rumours he may be dealing with an undisclosed injury, but regardless, Cleveland have zero chance unless he starts providing some explosive scoring, because he’s certainly not helping stop the Warriors on defence.

DURANT’S DEFENCE ON FULL DISPLAY

Kevin Durant has been the best player on the floor in the Finals and it hasn’t just been because of his extremely efficient offence. He may not get his due as a defender that often, but in this series, everyone is witnessing just how imposing he can also be on that end.

Durant isn’t just matching up on LeBron and limiting his looks, he’s also been stout as a post defender and has used his incredible length to disrupt shots and passes. Simply put, he’s showcasing every facet of his amazing game.

CAVS HAVE NO ROOM FOR ERROR 

This isn’t exactly a revelation, but Game 2 highlighted just how quickly the Warriors’ tide can overwhelm Cleveland. The Cavaliers were more competitive in the second meeting and were within a possession during the third quarter, only for Golden State to send another avalanche their way and all but bury them in the blink of an eye.

Every offensive rebound surrendered or turnover lost or mental mistake comes back to haunt Cleveland.

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Warriors complete clean sweep of Jazz to book final spot

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Stephen Curry.

Stephen Curry scored 30 points as the Golden State Warriors wrapped up a series sweep with a 121-95 rout of the Utah Jazz on Monday.

The Warriors advanced to a Western Conference finals showdown against either Houston or San Antonio after overcoming a fleeting Utah rally to take the series 4-0 at Salt Lake City’s Vivint Smart Home Arena.

It was a second consecutive 4-0 series victory for the Warriors, who also notched a sweep against Portland in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Warriors laid the foundation for the win with a devastating first quarter performance which saw them pour on 39 points to open up a double-digit lead against a shellshocked Utah.

The Jazz battled back to reduce the deficit to eight points at half-time at 60-52.

Utah remained in touching distance throughout the third period but the Warriors always looked capable of finding an extra gear when it mattered.

The decisive period came at the end of the third period when both Curry and Andre Iguodala both hit three-pointers in quick succession to help the Dubs pull away to 93-79 heading into the fourth quarter.

That burst of scoring was a foretaste of what was to follow in the fourth quarter, with the Warriors pulling further clear to wrap up victory by a 26-point margin.

Curry was one of five Warriors players to hit double figures, with Klay Thompson adding 21 points and Kevin Durant 18. Green added 17 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for a triple-double.

For Utah, Gordon Hayward top scored with 25 points while Shelvin Mack had 18 and Dante Exum 15.

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Debate: Will Golden State become first playoff team to go 16-0?

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Dominant: Golden State.

The Golden State Warriors (GSW) have put on a stellar show in the NBA Playoffs so far, but the question is, can they become the first team to go 16-0?

Let us know your thoughts as our two writers discuss the topic.

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JAY ASSER, SAYS YES

No team in the history of the NBA playoffs has ever run the table and gone a perfect 16-0 from the opening round to lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

If there was ever a team to finally break through, however, it’s these Golden State Warriors. Considering the firepower and balance the Warriors possess, as well as the way they’re currently playing, it wouldn’t exactly be unfathomable to see them romp the competition the rest of the way.

While no team has ever accomplished the feat before, a few have come close. The 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers most notably went 15-1, with their lone loss coming at the hands of a virtuoso Allen Iverson performance in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Even Michael Jordan’s teams couldn’t pull it off, but it’s been proven that winning all 16 isn’t inconceivable. Golden State are nearly halfway there after taking a commanding 3-0 lead over the Utah Jazz in the second round, but everyone knows the real test is on the horizon.

Either the San Antonio Spurs or Houston Rockets will follow in the Western Conference Finals, while in all likelihood the third part of the trilogy with the Cleveland Cavaliers looms in the Finals.

With all due to respect to James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and, of course, LeBron James, this is more about the Warriors than their opponents. When they’re playing at their best or even close to it, they’re unbeatable and we’ve seen the full capacity of their powers through the first seven games.

Golden State are at or near the top in a long list of statistical categories in the postseason, but maybe most impressively, they lead all playoff teams in turnover percentage (11.5) and defensive rebound percentage (82.2) – arguably their two weakest areas over the past couple of years.

They also have Kevin Durant now to bail them out when games turn into slugfests and offences go stagnant.

There’s just too much shooting, star power and defence for the Warriors not to be a favourite in every game they play. It’s a recipe for making history.

JAMES PIERCY, SAYS NO

Bigging up this Warriors team is a bit like claiming Michael Jordan could play a bit or that John Stockton was able to spot a pass. It’s clear they’re the best team in the NBA right now, and probably by some margin.

Even without head coach Steve Kerr on the sidelines, they haven’t put a foot wrong in sweeping Portland and probably Utah, who look almost certain to succumb in four games tonight.

But, before we get into who is standing in their way – Houston/San Antonio and likely Cleveland – let’s consider who they have beaten to reach 7-0 in the playoffs.

A Portland team with a disastrous defensive scheme and an offence based primarily on their backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum going toe-totoe with Golden State.

With no Jusuf Nurkic to offer rim protection or physical presence in the paint at the other end, the Trail Blazers were toothless in trying to throw the Warriors off their game, let alone stemming the tide.

A team they hammered 4-0 in the regular season with a point differential of 19.25 . The Jazz were a little more equipped but their trump card, Rudy Gobert doesn’t look 100 per cent fit and they’re off the back of a draining seven-game series.

Thrown into the lions’ den of Oracle Arena 48 hours after beating the Clippers in Game 7, it’s no wonder they’re on the back foot and could be knocked out before they steady their legs. You can only beat what’s in front of you, but it’s been easy.

That should change with Houston or San Antonio. Both represent different challenges: San Antonio a defensive beast with size and Houston an offensive giant, second only to the Warriors, who won’t be fazed in a shoot-out.

Then there’s Cleveland, LeBron and the pressure of having to get over the line. A barrier they struggled against last season and who’s to say they won’t, at least, wobble again.

Kevin Durant’s there but he’s never won a title, nor been in a team so heavily favoured. It’s some stretch to say confidently they won’t drop at least one game against two of that trio.

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