Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and the Warriors are in the driver’s seat after taking a 2-0 series lead on the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
USA TODAY Sports
OAKLAND – Even with LeBron James playing at a high, efficient level – 29 points on 12-for-18 shooting, 14 assists and 11 rebounds – the Cleveland Cavaliers were no closer to beating the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 on Sunday than they were in the series opener.
Even with James’ performance, a team isn’t going to beat the Warriors shooting 27.6% on threes when the Warriors make 41.9%.
A team isn’t going to beat the Warriors when J.R. Smith, Deron Williams and Iman Shumpert combine to shoot 1-for-13.
A team isn’t going to beat the Warriors when Kevin Durant (33 points, 13 rebounds), Steph Curry (32 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) and Klay Thompson (22 points, seven rebounds) combine for 87 points.
The Cavaliers played better than they did on Thursday and still lost 132-113.
The Cavs’ margin for error in this series is slim, and they need a near-perfect game to beat Golden State. The Warriors don’t have that same margin of error. They committed 20 turnovers and still generated the most points scored against Cleveland in the 2017 postseason.
“I don’t want to get into the ‘what we need to do better’ right now. The game is too fresh,” James said. “We’re going to go home and watch the film to see ways we can be better. Do things – I don’t want to say differently because you work so hard to get to this point – but make a couple of changes to see if we can be a lot better defensively and offensively.”
The idea has emerged that no matter what the Cavaliers do, it won’t be enough. Beating the Warriors four times in the next five games seems impossible.
Sure, point to last season when the Cavs lost the first two games of the Finals to Golden State, fell behind 3-1 and won the championship. But this year’s Warriors team is not last year’s Warriors team.
“You guys asked me what was the difference, and I told you,” James said. “They’re a different team.”
As was the case two seasons ago in the Finals, James can string together amazing games, and it’s still not enough. Kyrie Irving missed all but one game against the Warriors and Love wasn’t available for any Finals games in 2015.
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It’s clear the Cavs need more production from Irving, as well as from role players. Irving had 19 points and seven assists in Game 2 but was 8-for-23 from the field. The Warriors have played outstanding defense on him, double-teaming him and trying to get the ball out of his hands.
“Just seeing a lot of bodies,” Irving said. “They’re obviously trying to make a few other guys make plays, and when we’re coming off our isolations, they’re bringing a few more bodies to clog the lane.”
The Warriors know James will force his way to production, but they don’t want the James-Irving combination beating them.
But it’s not always a product of what Cleveland isn’t doing. Often, it’s a product of what Golden State is doing, which is playing offense at a high level and doing enough defensively.
James recorded his eighth Finals triple-double, tying Magic Johnson for most in Finals history.
“Right now, it means nothing. But it will mean something,” James said. “He’s one of the greatest to play this game. Right now, individuality means absolutely nothing when it comes to this team sport. But when I’m done, I’ll probably look back on it and say it was a cool feat.”
In the moment, James is trying to figure out how to keep the Cavs in the series.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt