An Instant Christmas Classic: Warriors vs. Cavs
Normally, I do a weekly Cavs wrap up discussing the highs and lows of their week. But, let’s be real here… Nothing in the NBA mattered for the last week besides the Warriors - Cavs rivalry renewed on the day Jesus was born (so they say), so let’s discuss the (regular season) classic they provided us. Nobody cared about anything else. Never been so happy to see Durant’s hair glistening on my TV screen on a national holiday. Now, I use the term “hair” loosely, it looks more like the black grime you scrape from the bottom of the iron pot after you scramble some eggs a tad bit too long. Never the less, the dude can ball and that’s all that matters. Its been well documented that these teams do not like one another. To add a little fuel to the fire, the Cavs left a door open —right down the hall from the Warriors’ locker room — revealing a poster of “The Block” with one little twist, the huge ring on his left hand, which he got from beating these same Warriors. Legendary trolling.
The opening stages of the game went exactly how you’d expect, with both teams feeling one another out. Yes, they are familiar with each other, but there was one major personnel change. KEVIN EFFING DURANT was added to the Warriors. I still cannot believe he’s playing there now. Anyway, the opening five minutes was much like the opening rounds of a prizefight. Both fighters looking to get a feel for their foe, jabbing and moving in hopes of avoiding a thrown haymaker being countered knocking their nose into the front row. One thing was clear early on: Kevin Durant was the best player on the court in the first half. In the first quarter, the first of what will be a series of thrilling sequences took place. LeBron got a breakaway lefty layup. Not to be outdone, Durant took the inbounds pass to race down the court and dunk Kevin Love’s soul through the earth’s crust. My god was it beautiful. After Love composed himself, he threw one of the beautiful full court lead passes that he is well-known for to LeBron streaking down the court for a signature LeBron fast break dunk. Those three plays were fantastic, which prompted me to tweet something stupid and cliché along the lines of “THIS GAME >>>>>” I’m not proud of it, but hey, it happened. In the midst of all the excitement, Draymond was on the bench marinating because of two — admittedly bullshit — early foul calls. After taking a 10-8 lead, the Warriors maintained a lead pretty much for the duration of the game.
The second half saw LeBron James take ascend to the throne of “best player in the building.” He came out firing, connecting on 4 of 6 three pointers on his way to a 16-point 3rd quarter. Bron kept the Cavs in it despite being outscored by four points in the third frame. KD was still out there being rude trying to dunk on any and everything on the court. Definitely felt like he was trying to prove something, though he should not have to, he definitely did. The fourth quarter saw the intensity ratchet up a good bit. Warriors opened up a 14-point lead almost midway through the quarter. This is the point of the game I thought it was over. I had picked the Dubs to win in a game that was fairly close throughout, but the firepower and efficiency of the Warriors would be too much for Cleveland in the end. I was wrong. Cleveland came storming back to make things interesting. The end of the game had everything. A dramatic game-winning shot, a controversial missed call, and R. Jeff turning back the clock on them old knees and dropping the hammer on Klay Thompson is what we will be talking about until these two teams meet again January 16th (mark your calendars). Oh, and LeBron James dunked on the entire city of Oakland then swung on the rim. I had never been happier in my life. Kyrie had Klay on him, with KD guarding Bron in the strong side corner. For those of you that don’t know, Kyrie is a goddamn wizard with the rock in his hands. He drove right to the baseline, spun back to the middle and nailed a tough fade away over the outstretched arm of Klay Thompson, a bigger defender. At this point, I’m kicking over my nephews’ toys that were littered over my living room floor out of sheer excitement. It was marvelous. But then I remembered, the ball was going back to the Warriors with three seconds left on the clock. The dude who put up a light yet efficient 36 points would have one last say so to end this classic. Here’s where the controversy comes. KD caught the ball and as he was about to fry Jefferson, he tripped. Now, I personally think Jefferson tripped KD but as KD said after the game, he’s not getting that call in their crib. After being tripped, KD ended up facedown on the court like Phillip Rivers after a game-losing pick. It ended the game on what was everything we could ask for as fans for a Christmas Day game between the two best teams. I understand people blaming the refs for the no-call and saying it had cost the Warriors the game. Fair. But the call had NOTHING to do with the Dubs blowing a 14-point lead with seven minutes left in the game.
Cavaliers 109, Warriors 108. Thank you, NBA.
I know it’s a regular season game and we love to overreact to them. There are some factors — encouraging and worrisome — to keep an eye out for in case these two squads meet up again come June. For the Warriors, Curry was a none factor during the entire game. I don’t think he even played in this game. If you go back and watch the replay of Kyrie’s game-winning shot, you can see Curry on the bench with his hands in his face. Pure comedy. Now, Curry is of course elite, but it seems the Cavs have some mental control over him. KD is going to get busy no matter who is on court, regardless who is guarding him but it won’t matter if Curry isn’t the Curry we have become accustomed to watching. Interesting side note: KD has completely overshadowed Curry’s appeal. Last season, every single headline and think piece was on Curry. But since KD’s arrival, the attention has shifted. Going to be reallllly interesting to see how Curry handle’s the diversion of attention going forward. Anyway, If these two meet again in the finals, what will Curry add to the pot if his shot isn’t falling, as was the case on Christmas. He was benched for defense on the final possession, while it isn’t a huge deal, its still something to keep an eye on as the season progresses. Draymond was essentially taken out of the game in the first two minutes thanks to the aforementioned bullshit foul calls. While the calls were suspect, he absolutely lost his mind and got a tech. He must still play emotional because it makes him, him but not at the cost of the team. Lastly, the Warriors used to punish Cleveland when Love was on the court. During this game, Love was very effective, in a detail I did not see coming. Will the Warriors be able to exploit that matchup once again come June, essentially rendering Love useless? We’ll have to wait and see.
For the Cavs, they dominated the Warriors on the board to the tune of grabbing 18 offensive rebounds. It was the only way for them to overcome the 38.9% shooting from the field (only led for 49 seconds TOTAL in the game). Rebounding was how Cleveland was able to upset the Warriors last June to capture the title. Of course it helped that Draymond was out most of the first quarter and taken out of his rhythm, but it must stay that way for them to have a chance again this year (Looks at Tristan Thompson). Health. Health is the key component for the Cavs going forward. JR is already out until April. Incorporating him back to the game speed in the playoffs will take some time. His absence is huge because it puts a dent in their already thin depth chart. Liggins banging knees in this game did not help matters either. A greater strain will be put on LeBron and Kyrie with JR being out until April, which is not ideal for a squad that planned to rest more often in order to be ready when the playoffs start. It’ll be interesting to see if Cleveland will concede the one seed in the playoffs to Toronto to ensure they are as healthy as possible going into the playoffs. Personally, I think they should since they have proven home-court advantage does not matter for them, especially in the Eastern Conference where they have beaten the Raptors on their home floor multiple times in the playoffs.