This game was going to be hard to predict. With both teams coming in missing four of their top seven players, you knew other players were going to have to step up, and —
Wait, what? The Cavs weren't missing a ton of players? Like... that's their team? Oh, Eastern Conference, you so silly.
I know, I know. That's not fair. Anderson Varejão is out for the season with a blood clot (!). And Kyrie Irving was probably feeling significantly under the weather. And, um... well that's it, really.
Meanwhile, the Warriors were missing their starting point guard and best player in Stephen Curry, their newly returned starting center and maybe-actually-eventually best player in Andrew Bogut, their starting small forward and not-close-to-best-player-but-still-good-for-20-years-old Harrison Barnes, and their best offensive weapon off the bench in Carl Landry.
Listen, I watched this Warriors team the last time Curry missed a couple of games, and I almost puked. So I thought it was going to take some manner of miracle for the Warriors to pull this one out, even against a poor Cavs team.
Instead? Well, I'll go out and say it: the Dubs dominated this game. Except for the latter part of the first quarter, Cleveland never really looked like they had a chance.
In said latter part of first quarter, we were seeing some of what we saw when Curry missed games previously: bad ball handling, bad decision making, and bad spacing, leading to stagnation and turnovers.
Then what happened? Well, David Lee and Klay Thompson re-entered the game. In that 2nd quarter, Lee had 6 points on 3-4 shooting, with 5 rebounds and 2 assists, while Klay had 13 and 3, going 3-3 from the arc. And suddenly, a two-horse race for this evening's Warrior Wonder!
Lee was absolutely the glue that held this offense together tonight. He finished with another 20 point, 10+ (13 to be exact) rebound game, added 8 assists, only 1 turnover, grabbed a couple of steals, led a couple of fast breaks, made the extra pass, made the smart play, over and over again. Defensively he struggled, as one and all might expect, but his all-around offensive game, along with his tough work on the boards, was the foundation of a convincing victory.
If Lee was the foundation, Klay Thompson was the shiny structure built atop it. He took a ton of shots — 24 of 'em — but he was throwing fireballs tonight. 6 of his 13 makes were three-pointers, leading the team to finish 11-16 from outside. He finished with a career-high 32 points, with a nice contribution on the boards with 7.
There were other contributors to this win, of course. Jarrett Jack put up huge numbers — 26 points, 12 assists, 11-18 shooting. He was definitely a positive for the team tonight, although perhaps not to the extent that those numbers would indicate; you know you're gonna get some bad with the good where Jack is concerned, and tonight was no different. He sunk a couple of Jacks (aka NONONONONOYES!!! shots), but also made some bad decisions with the ball and sometimes caused the offense to stall out. The longer Jack holds onto the ball, the more likely the result is either a turnover or a bail-himself-out shot. Still, all sins are forgiven when you sink shots and drop dimes.
Andris Biedrins got the start over Festus Ezeli for whatever reason (trade value minutes?), and rebounded the living hell out of the ball. He played good defense against Marreese Speights and Tristan Thompson, as did the aforementioned Ezeli; Lee was clearly having trouble with the size-adept Thompson, whom I recall Evanz loving to death and would like to now hear his thoughts on the matter. He finished the game with 18 points on 8-14 shooting, and11 rebounds, 5 of them of the offensive variety. Lee just couldn't handle his size, but the backup center tandem did a decent job reigning him in.
And my oh my, how about Kent Bazemore! Mark Jackson tapped our beloved benchwarmer for 30 whole minutes tonight, to provide some length defensively against Irving and put an extra ball handler on the floor. Bazemore ended with a career-high 9 points, and added a couple boards, 3 assists, a pair of steals, and just as one would hope for and expect, excellent on-ball defense. I'll also just sneak in Draymond Green's name here, as he brought some nice defense and hustle rebounding, and even hit a three.
In the end, amazingly, the Warriors didn't miss Stephen Curry one bit. They scored from the three point arc at a rate that would make him blush, shared the ball with perfect synergy, and took a road victory without much drama. And just like that, the Warriors salvage what looked like a tricky road trip, finish 2-2, and return home for a Thursday night game against the Mavericks with what we can all hope will be a full complement of players. At least we know now that they might not even need it.
So: Who gets the WW? I'm giving it to the guy who made this offense gel all night long.
I read repeatedly before this game that, with Steph and Bogut out, Kyrie Irving would be the best player on the court tonight. He wasn't even the best passer on the court, let alone the best all-around player. I know he was sick, and I haven't watched him play much this season, and I might be an unabashed homer, but I'm gonna roll with this claim: David Lee is better than Kyrie Irving, and he damn well showed it tonight.