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 – For at least one half on Sunday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to consider seizing homecourt advantage by stealing a game in Oakland.
It was a 67-64 game at halftime. LeBron James had poured in a ruthlessly efficient two quarters of basketball. Draymond Green had picked up three fouls, and the Cavs were keeping pace with the Golden State Warriors’ prolific offense, matching each of their runs bucket for bucket. For a moment, with an uncharacteristic 13 turnovers, the unblemished Warriors looked vulnerable.
But it was only a few minutes into the second half that showed it was all deception, and you remembered the embarrassment of riches the Warriors now have with Kevin Durant in tow. The team’s 7-foot shooting guard, as numerous Cavs players have described him, buried a deep three-pointer followed by another one from Steph Curry, and the lead started to balloon. Credit the Cavs for working the deficit back to four as late as 5:42 left in the third quarter, but it looked like they’d exhausted themselves just to maintain that pace. Durant scored 18 of his 33 in the second half, Curry added 17 of his 32 including three three-pointers, and the divide in the two teams became even more apparent. The Warriors went on to win 132-113, taking a 2-0 lead ahead of Wednesday Game 3 in Cleveland.
“I don’t think there’s many teams in the league who their backup is better than their starter,” said Green of the transition Durant made to center when the Warriors kept their small-ball lineup in the second half. “I think that’s a luxury that we have. To say pick up the slack is kind of a ridiculous term, because he’s a great player, a MVP, one of the best in the world.”
Latest NBA Finals coverage:
That’s where the Warriors are at right now, team fully intact following the return of Steve Kerr and in complete control of the NBA Finals. At 14-0, they still haven’t lost a game this postseason, and their margin of victory has been in the single digits just twice.
Though they were certainly tested in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals vs. the San Antonio Spurs before the Kawhi Leonard injury, they’ve lost four times since March 5. Their record since then is 29-4. And with Klay Thompson (22 points) rediscovering his shooting stroke, and Green stretching the floor from the outside and Durant showcasing his length on both ends of the floor and Curry burying frenzy-inducing three-pointers, it’s hard to imagine a 48-minute sustained Cavs effort that could test the Warriors at this juncture.
Even James, who recorded his eighth career Finals triple-double, sounded resigned after posting 29 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.
“(We were) much more physical than we were in Game 1, and we forced them to 20 turnovers, and they still beat us pretty good,” James said.
The Warriors are well aware of the context following last year’s unprecedented 3-1 collapse, and it’s why they’re reticent to admit anything that could be construed as bulletin board material.
“We know this is far from over,” Durant said. “We got to just keep going, keep our foot on the gas.”
Veteran wing Shaun Livingston took it a step further, asserting that until the Finals are settled, the Warriors still feel threatened.
“It’s the championship. They want to win one. Their goal is try and steal one, get back and protect home court. That’s the goal. It’s a sense of urgency right now, and we have to play with that same sense,” Livingston told USA TODAY Sports. “(We feel threatened), because they’re the champions. We should always feel threatened. If we’re not threatened then we shouldn’t be here. That’s how I feel.”
The back-to-back beatdowns belie a significant threat, but last year’s lesson isn’t lost on the Warriors. They’re not taking their position for granted.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Michael Singer on Twitter @msinger.