After a little cat and mouse, the King took flight. They don't call him "the King" due to any affinity for burgers. This guy's grilling on the hardwood and creating opportunities for his team. The Warriors didn't have much response for LeBron James' hot third quarter that helped the Cav's get out to a 16-3 run. He would end the game with 42 points on 15-of-25 shooting.
James didn't singlehandedly beat the W's. Golden State gave him a sprinkle of help. After a late barrage of too many jumpers and a lack of interest in taking the ball to the rim, the Warriors fell to the Cav's. It was the Cavalier's 11th consecutive win at home and tenth straight win against a western conference opponent. For the Warriors, it was another lesson for the chalkboard, one of the 99-110 final tally variety.
Inconsistent gap defense and lack of commitment to driving the ball resulted in the Cavaliers heading to the line for 35 attempts compared to the Warriors 19. Of which, only 11 of those 19 free-throw attempts dropped. Too many outside jumpers and not enough banging down low.
Moving forward the W's have to make a better case for themselves to the referees. Although it seemed the zebras were a bit more partial to James and the Cav's, conspiracy theories aside, typically the more aggressive team receives increased foul calls. One of those unsung awards, that's prevalent on the hardwood and rarely mentioned in the announcer's booth. Cleveland thrived from their whistle-love, hitting 83 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe.
However, there was some good...
David Lee had his welcome back party.
Lee attempted to make up for lost time by getting involved early. His first quarter total of 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting not only kept the W's in close contention, it also set a tone. Although Cleveland received the big man they were desperate for via trade, the W's weren't to be bullied on the inside. Moreover, it allowed the Warriors to be threats from the outside and interior equally (a concept that was abandoned in the second half). Lee finished the night with a team-high 19 points.
What's continuously impressive about Lee's game is his tendency to attack the rim. He doesn't waste his chances at a bucket or getting to the foul line by attempting to pump-fake the defender or pivot into a more favorable offensive position. He seeks out the punishment that comes from being aggressive and decisive. Perhaps some of that will rub off on Marreese Speights. Then again, we can only hope.
It's that tenacity on the offensive end that will keep Lee on the double-digit end of the points column. It will also prove valuable late in contests where the W's want to get their opposition into the bonus. Lee's activity should serve as an example to other W's forwards. Referees love to blow their whistles for players that are aggressive on the hardwood. If Lee can continue that style of play well into the playoffs, he'll serve as a valuable asset down the stretch.
More like Klay putty and less like "Klaymore"
Against the Cav's he was more lie a Splash cousin... Like the one you're not very close to and wouldn't claim as family if you didn't have to (especially after they shoot 5-from-13 and end the night with 13 points). Klay Thompson just couldn't hit a shot -- especially early in the game, and it wrecked his confidence for the duration in other areas.
And that really blows for the Warriors. They need Thompson to give more of an even performance throughout games. If anyone needs to be present in every quarter, it's Thompson and Curry. They're the two-headed monster of the squad, and even if Thompson starts off sluggish (like he has as in recent games), the Warriors need him to be constantly aggressive.
An aggressive Thompson keeps the defense on edge, providing no possessions off. It also creates opportunities for more W's players. When the defense collapses to Thompson, that leaves three defenders to cover four on offense -- a coaches dream scenario. Two passes later the Warriors get a wide open jumper or an uncontested layup with Thompson's drive-and-dish as the primary catalyst.
In the end...
The Cleveland Cavaliers had to make a trade before the deadline. Plan A of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love beating the opposition by themselves went caput. Now head coach David Blatt has a variety of options on the offensive end, and Cleveland wasn't scared to show them off.
A variety of options on the offensive end is what makes teams like Cleveland so difficult to defend, especially when you're down like the Warriors were entering the fourth quarter. It's not enough to simply beat the teams over .500 and contend with those mentioned in the championship conversation. The Warriors will need to match energy, pace and tempo in all quarters of a game. Allowing the opposition to control even one quarter as the Cavaliers did in the third, can be that last camel's straw in the end.
If you're not a fan of HBO's "The Wire" you should be. What's often credited as the greatest television show in history delivered some prolific quotes that still resonate years after its final season. One of which served true in this game... "The king stay the king". Now you can expect that MVP water cooler talk to include LeBron, Stephen Curry and James Harden.