Lebron James said that Friday’s matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors would be just like any other game, but it was clear that was not the case.
The first rematch of the 2015 Finals was very reminiscent of those games played this past June. Early on, neither team could really get anything going, and play was very sloppy, with both teams looking out of sync offensively. Aside from Draymond Green’s 10 first quarter points, no one player could seem to find real rhythm or comfort zone, and a lot of baskets came from players scrapping for lose balls and tipped rebounds. Early on it was clear, this was going to be a very hard fought game.
For Cleveland, the offensive woes were there from the start. In the opening quarter, Lebron James and Kevin Love combined for just six points on 3-10 shooting, while Cleveland’s third star, Kyrie Irving, was still showing a lot of rust in just his third game back from knee surgery. These offensive struggles would last all game. As a team, Cleveland shot just 31.6% from the field, and a dreadful 16.7% from three-point land. Had Golden State been able to find their true offensive form, the game would have had a MUCH different look to it.
Luckily for the Cavs the Warriors were having an off night of their own.
Throughout the game, the beautifully flowing Golden State offense was nowhere to be seen. Some of that had to do with Steph Curry being absent for a large portion of the second quarter due to a right calf strain, but most of it had to do with the nature of the game. Usually the Warriors are a team that will make pass after pass after pass in order to get the best possible shot. However, the increased intensity of this game led to the Warriors rushing some of their offensive possessions, and settling for a lot of forced shots. The result was 41% shooting for Golden State, 27.8% from deep, and only 21 assists. These are uncharacteristically low offensive numbers for the Warriors who are usually shooting close to 49% from the field, 42% from three, with just under 29 assists a game.
Ultimately, Golden State was able to pull out an 89-83 win with the help of a few pretty layups from Steph Curry, as well as missed shots by Lebron James down the stretch. Although neither team’s offense played to it’s full potential, the game certainly did not disappoint. There was a great playoff-like atmosphere in Oracle Arena throughout the game, as the two teams picked up right where they left off in June, fighting and scrapping for any advantage possible.
In terms of individual performance, there wasn’t one player who truly blew you away. James led all scorers with 25 points, but that came on 10-26 shooting. Kevin Love collected 18 rebounds, but his 10 point, 5-16 shooting performance (including 0-5 from deep) left much to be desired. On the other side, Steph Curry never really threatened to have one of his insane scoring outbursts, putting up just 19 points on 6-15 shooting. Shaun Livingston really helped the Warriors out, scoring 16 points on 8-9 shooting in just 22 minutes. The line of the night came from Draymond Green, who, somewhat quietly, put up 22 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks, and came just 3 assists shy of a fifth triple-double on the season.
In the first of two rematches, The Warriors not only proved why they are the defending champs, but also why they are 28-1. They were able to overcome a poor night offensively, buckle down defensively, execute late in the game and survive a 48-minute battle with the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Cleveland (19-8) will continue their 4-game road trip tomorrow in Portland, while Golden State will have a few days off before hosting the Kings on December 28th. The next game between the Warriors and Cavs comes in just three weeks, this time in Cleveland, on January 18th.