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Curry incinerates Cleveland again; Green and Looney fends off Cleveland's bigs.
It's always fun beating the Cavs in thrilling fashion.
If were to travel back in time to 2016 and teleport into my old bedroom during the NBA Finals, I’d definitely see younger Daniel on the edge of the bed, glaring at the score. Younger Me would be dripped out in Warriors gear, a gold rally towel draped over his fro, rocking the black Chinese New Year #30 t-shirt jersey like a bulletproof vest.
I’d reveal to him that I was the Ghost of Championships Future, and that I brought good tidings about Golden State’s dynastic potential. Younger Me would probably find it awesome and surprising that the Warriors could retain the expensive Core 3 of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green while adding an All-Star in Andrew Wiggins, AND developing four promising first round picks from the bench.
He’d also find it crazy as hell that this fever dream of a roster would be struggling against a Cavaliers team that traded Kyrie Irving, couldn’t retain LeBron James, and relegated Kevin Love to reserve status. But I’d inform him that these new look marauders from The Land have been turning heads this season with their hot start to the year.
Warriors vs Cavaliers looks different than those LeBronian championship rivalry days, as they’re currently sporting the electric guard tandem of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland.
But there’s something about those two logos being on the court at the same time that makes their clashes still intensely emotional and entertaining. GSW proved that last night, besting Cleveland 106-101 after being tested by an 11-point deficit and terrible calls from the refs.
I can’t mention Dubs vs Cavs without some conversation about ridiculous officiating.
But you know what, maybe I’m overreacting. They say a mark of good refereeing is when both teams are unhappy with the calls, and the Cavs certainly seemed heated after the game for Klay Thompson playing like a grown man and not getting whistled for it. Watch him lay the wood on this screen that freed up Stephen Curry for the game clinching bomb:
Ahhh yes, Curry was there to deliver the shot that put the nail in the coffin on Cleveland, echoing the way the Warriors have done it so many times over the years.
The Cavs have the second best defensive rating in the NBA, and yet were helpless to slow down the Unanimous One. He scored 15 of his 40 points in the final period, hitting the Cavaliers with so many high degree-of-difficulty daggers it broke their will.
Go Big or Go Home
Draymond Green and Kevon Looney had their hands full against Cleveland’s tough bigs. Evan Mobley is damn near 7-feet and rumbled his way to 20 points and 13 rebounds, 8 of them from the offensive glass. Jarrett Allen is a veteran center who threw his weight around last night, chipping in 13 points and snagging 9 rebounds. And the aforementioned Love snatched 7 rebounds of his own in 22 minutes off the bench.
And yet the balance of the game tilted GSW’s way when Green and Loon outhustled and outwrestled those behemoths with the game in the balance.
Looney finished the game with 7 points and 9 rebounds, 5 of them he ripped down in the fourth quarter when the Warriors desperately needed to finish off defensive possessions by keeping Cleveland off the glass. The Cavs had 14 offensive rebounds for the game, a figure which would lead the NBA if they did that every night (the Houston Rockets are tops in O-boards per game at 14.1).
But only ONE of Cleveland’s several second chance opportunities came in the fourth quarter. Phenomenal job by the Dubs to tighten that up!
Green had a hell of a game himself, dishing out 13 assists, grabbing 9 rebounds, and coughing up exactly zero turnovers. According to a quick Stat Head search, sorting for power forwards and centers only, the only other men to have that statline are Nikola Jokic, Boris Diaw, Vlade Divac, and Antoine Walker.
This is why any talk of trading Green usually ends with me ignoring the hell out of whoever is talking, because this dude can affect the game in ways that very few have in the history of the league. A Defensive Player of the Year who can dish assists like Chris Paul and grab rebounds like Charles Oakley? Those don’t grow on trees folks.
Golden State must feel pretty good their starting bigs about matching up with the Cavaliers’ beastly frontline. Hopefully young center James Wiseman took notes!
Diamond in the rough
I’ve touched on the unfulfilled Klay-for-Kevin Love trade that many Warriors fans pined for back before the dynasty days started. But let’s not forget that Cleveland drafted Andrew Wiggins #1 overall in 2014, before shipping him out to the basketball wasteland that is the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise in exchange for Love. The latter would help the Cavs win their magical championship over the Warriors in 2016; the former would be rescued from basketball exile to help lead GSW to a title last season.
And while Love is demonstrating his chops as a savvy reserve vet stretch big who steadies Cleveland, Wiggins is entering his prime as an All-Star and durable two-way force that complements Golden State’s core perfectly. Wiggs scored 6 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, shooting 8-of-13 from the field for the game and adding 6 rebounds with 2 steals. He also did an excellent job helping corral Cleveland’s explosive guards.
Donovan Mitchell led the Cavs with 29 points and nearly had a triple-double with 10 rebounds and 9 assists. But Garland finished with 15 points and 8 assists on a horrid 5-of-19 shooting. You can thank Wiggins for some of that lockdown.
How bout that bench?
Coach Steve Kerr didn’t get JaMychal Green, James Wiseman, or Moses Moody into the game. Jonathan Kuminga played a scant 4 minutes and missed all three of the shots he took, while turning it over twice.
Fortunately, Jordan Poole scored 18 points off the bench in a spirited performance, while Anthony Lamb added 10 points of his own in 24 scrappy minutes that had me doing a double-take and wondering if this guy is the next diamond in the rough the Dubs have discovered.
Younger Me would chuckle proudly that Strength In Numbers still exists in the future, even it’s no longer Shaun Livingston and Mo Speights providing the boost from the reserves.
And as the clock would strike midnight, after filling him in on the future state of things for the Bay’s basketball team, I’d tell him that watching Cleveland whine will never ever get old. I’d dap him up and then vanish into the ether while whispering, “Night Night".