OAKLAND, Calif, — Champagne was available, but the Golden State Warriors ended up quaffing something more bitter, if not insipid en route to a 112-97 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ two-man offensive explosion. The Warriors played with little force or focus as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving stomped their way back into this series.
The Warriors lacked Draymond Green, which makes this performance somewhat explainable, but not exactly excusable either. First, it’s not as though Green is blameless for his absence. Second, the home crowd certainly showed up from the jump, primed to exhort their undermanned team forward.
Great teams have won in less dire circumstances and frankly, with better defensive efforts. While James and Irving were both beyond spectacular (41 points apiece on 54 combined shots), they were also allowed to get comfortable from the start. Once the duo got rolling, they never really stopped. James regained his recently-absent jumper and was an all-around force beyond that. Irving delivered an incredible exhibition of shot making, using the glass in ways that taunted physics.
A fourth-quarter sequence in which Stephen Curry and Harrison Barnes both missed wide open 3-pointers was made especially painful after a careless turnover from Iguodala, followed by a brilliant Kyrie Irving and-1. It was a tight second half for Golden State, after what had been an incandescent first two quarters. By the end of it, the Warriors had made just 3-of-21 3-pointers in the second half a solitary 1-of-10 in the final frame.
At the start of this game, Golden State was comfortably part of this shootout, Klay Thompson especially. The All-Star two guard had 26 points in the first half, punctuated by a 31-foot 3-pointer, his sixth triple of the half. The Warriors as a whole went 11-of-21 from deep in that opening half.
Unfortunately for Golden State, their shooting proved less sustainable than their shoddy defense. Eventually the Warriors’ shots went begging, as the Cavs continued to surge. Things will only get more difficult with their starting center Andrew Bogut out with a sprained left knee.
Curry will receive a lion’s share of blame, as he missed some shots he usually sinks. Also, the comparison to Irving’s performance reflects poorly on the MVP’s. He can find redemption in Cleveland, but it will surely be a long flight.