MLK Ass-Whipping: Cavs vs. Warriors
The eyes of the sports world had shifted from Arlington, Texas (Nobody — including Chiefs and Steelers — gave a damn about the AFC Divisional game) to Oakland, California for the Cavs-Warriors rematch. (Side note: Know how wack the Cowboys are? They are the DALLAS Cowboys and play their games in a different city. Losers). The Christmas day game does not really matter when it comes down to what will happen in June, and neither did this one. Hear me out. Last year, Golden State beat the hairline out of Bron and the Cavs in Cleveland to the tune of 132-98. After that game, nobody said Cleveland would beat the Warriors in a series. The rest is history. But that did not stop this game from being center of attention. Analysts and fans alike threw on their green accounting visors and broke down the matchup beforehand, as if that ever does any good. Nobody ever knows what is going to happen in sports. It is why it is the single greatest form of entertainment on Earth. But that uncertainty does not stop us from thinking we know what is going on. Whatever. This game went how I though the Christmas Day game would go. It was over from the start as Cleveland never led in the entire 48 minutes.
There were a number of ways the Warriors ended this game in the first half. One was Kyle Korver. If you remember, the last time I spoke about the Cavs, I wrote about all the ways Korver would help the Cavs already potent offense. Once again, I do not know shit cause the Warriors foamed at the mouth when they saw Korver. Golden State relentlessly attacked Korver on the defensive end whenever he was on the court. Whether it was simple dribble drives or pick and rolls — Korver’s man as the roll man or the primary ball-handler — it did not matter. The Warriors do not respect Korver’s defense and as a result, they showed he was no match for pretty much anyone they threw on the court. Korver’s liability on defense is not as much an indictment on him, because, well, we know he is slow-footed and just all around bad on that end. It does speak to how important JR Smith is to what Cleveland does. He is a knock down shooter when the Henny wears off, but more importantly, is not a player you can fearlessly attack on the defensive end. As showcased in last years finals, JR is a damn good defender and athletic enough to give any perimeter player in the league hell.
Golden State also got out in transition early and often against Cleveland Monday night. They scored 34 (THIRTY FOUR) fast break points in the first half alone. That’s an insane number. It is exactly how the Warriors wish to play. Play tough defense, force a miss or turnover, push the ball down court, and then get the ball to one of their elite shooters to finish you off. Warriors could not have asked for more. Not only did the fact that Cleveland only rebounded 13% of their own misses, Cleveland was also blocked eight times alone in the first half. For some perspective, on average Cleveland gets blocked only 6.4 times per game this season. On one particular first half play, Draymond blocked Korver’s 3-point attempt, instead of either a) Korver retreating to contest the fast break or b) having the point guard back to stop the break, Korver went forward trying to knock down the pass. Yeah, that did not work. Dray received the pass down court, which led to an easy Warriors bucket. Cavs always attack the offensive glass, which is normally a great thing. But when shots go up that are blocked or tipped, it allows teams to get out and run. That play was a microcosm of how the entire first half went for both teams.
The big story from the Christmas Day matchup was the impact of KD and lack thereof from that Beige Brother. Warriors made it a priority to include Steph in more on-ball situations this time around. He had the ball in his hand much more. It allows him to keep the defense honest and stretch the floor. Another interesting note: Cavs were not allowed to be as physical with Steph as they have been in the last couple of meetings. Holds and grabs against Curry in off ball situations (him coming off of screens) normally go uncalled for the most part. Monday night was not the case. The refs paid much more attention to those off-ball situations and it really took away from the Cavs strategy. Getting in to the bonus situation against a great shooting free throw team such as the Warriors is a death sentence. (For those that may not be aware of what the “bonus” means, it is basically after a certain amount of fouls in a quarter by a specific team, the opponent will shoot free throws for each additional foul for the remainder of the quarter). All Monday’s matchup informed us was that the Warriors are really good (we knew this), LeBron needs to embrace the bald brotherhood (hear they are very accepting), and Korver will really help Cleveland come out of the East, not so much be the deciding factor is a series against the Warriors (we kinda knew this as well). So basically, we learned nothing. But it was fun for about five minutes anyway.