Finals Game 2: Two on One

Game 2 of the Finals was certainly more competitive and entertaining than Game 1, however, the outcome was still the same. Golden State beat Cleveland 132-113, to move to 2-0 in the Finals and keep their postseason record at an unblemished 14-0. With each game, the Warriors are looking more like the juggernaut they were assembled to be, and appear to be hitting their stride and peaking at just the right time. If that is the case, then Cleveland certainly has their hands full throughout the duration of a series that could very well end a lot sooner than most people expected.

The biggest news of Game 2 wasn’t what happened on the court, but what took place on the sidelines. Head coach Steve Kerr returned to the bench for the first time since April 19, which was Game 2 of the Warriors opening round playoff matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. Kerr had been suffering complications from back surgery which caused him to take a leave of absence from the head coach’s seat, but not from the team. Kerr remained closely involved and at times, could be seen watching over his squad during practice.

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But it was in Game 2 of the Finals where Kerr stated he felt healthy enough to resume his coaching duties and having him back seemed to enhance the buzz in Oracle Arena and gave his team an extra pep in their steps between the lines.

“The last couple weeks have been good in terms of running practice, film sessions, coaches’ meetings,” Kerr said during the team’s shootaround on Sunday Morning. “I wanted to string together a few good days. I did that, and I’m feeling well enough to coach, so I’ll be out there.”

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Kevin Durant had another incredible individual performance in Game 2, finishing with 33 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 blocks. However, unlike in Game 1 when Durant seemed to explode from the jumpball, he was much more consistent and measured in his play over the course of the game which was much more uptempo and fast paced, as was evidenced by the 132 points they put in the scoreboard.

“I’m not going to take a step back,” Durant said. “We know this is far from over. We know how hard it is to be the best team in the League.”

If Durant was the story for Golden State in Game 1, in Game 2, it was Steph Curry’s moment in the spotlight as he notched is first career Finals triple-double, finishing with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes. Yes, “Chef Curry” achieved this feat in just three quarters of work. The only thing you could take issue with in Curry’s performance—if you chose to do so—was his 8 turnovers, six of which came in the first half. But beyond that, Curry was masterful in his play, especially in the opening quarter where scored 15 points, including going a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line. He was a major contributor to the Warriors 40 first quarter points, the first time in 50 years they’d scored that many points in a Finals quarter.

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“I’m playing with a lot of energy, that’s the biggest thing – trying to be aggressive every opportunity I have,” said Curry. “I think there’s another level that I can get to… [I’m] just trying to be aggressive and enjoy this moment, man, just playing in The Finals and the journey is unbelievable. I want to keep it going. This is The Finals, and every game is important.”

In the game, Curry got a little piece of personal revenge. After getting unceremoniously blocked by LeBron—and subsequently trash-talked—during Game 6 of last year’s Finals, Curry exacted some payback against LeBron. Isolated against LeBron, Curry put on his chef hat, taking LeBron to the prom with a series of jabs and fakes to float it in over the King. LeBron—who held his own against the more shifty Curry—was far from embarrassed on the play. It took everything from Curry—including a possible double dribble—to get past James’ tough defense, but it’s still a measure of revenge from last year.

Both Curry and Durant got much more help from their supporting cast in Game 2 than they did in Game 1. Klay Thompson, who has been almost invisible for the majority of the playoffs, seemed to finally find his shot and his on-court aggression as he finished with 22 points and 7 rebounds in the game. Draymond Green, despite playing 24 minutes because of foul trouble, also had a much better Game 2 performance with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. When Golden State’s best four players score in double figures, they are a pretty tough team to beat as the Cavaliers certainly found out on Sunday night.

LeBron James matched Steph Curry’s triple-double with one of his own, finishing with 29 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds. In Game 2, James came out more aggressive at the start than he did in Game 1, seeming intent on attacking the rim and finishing at the basket. However, he looked completely gassed after the first quarter, and while he did continue to be in attack mode throughout the game, by late in the contest, those aggressive drives turned into a lot of jumpers.

James was certainly in no mood to talk after the loss either. Instead of appearing at the customary postgame dais, he elected to field questions in the locker room and has some testy exchanges with reporters. One look at the Cavs box score would probably explain why LeBron was in the mood he was in.

Even though Kyrie Irving scored 19 points to go with 7 assists, and Kevin Love dropped 27 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, it was yet another Finals game where the rest of the Cavaliers didn’t step up.

J.R. Smith went scoreless as a starter, as did Deron Williams once again as a reserve, and Tristan Thompson had a minimal impact in the scoring column and on the glass, where he has just 8 rebounds in the series. It was yet another Finals game where no one outside of James, Irving and Love scored 10 points or more, while the Warriors had six players in double figures in Game 2.

Despite being the defending NBA champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers look like a team that is overmatched on the court and, it seems, in their heads. If there is a saving grace for the Cavs in the Finals, it’s that the next two games will be played on their home floor. But, in order to win, Cleveland will certainly need more contributions outside of their big three. Otherwise, the 2017 NBA Playoffs will go down as one of the least competitive postseasons in recent memory, and if the first two games of the Finals are any indication, it seems to be trending that way.