The Golden State Warriors have never been through this before. The NBA Finals pressure; all the expectations on them to win a series against a Cleveland Cavaliers they were favored against even before the Kyrie Irving injury; the stories about Stephen Curry's triumph over the underdog role; Steve Kerr's ascent to an elite coach. The Golden State Warriors are handling this in the moment, without the painful heartbreak one assumes they must encounter before eternal success. So these Warriors stumbled in Game 2, displaying to the national audience the absolute bottom of their shooting prowess. This time it didn't seem like the nerves. It was bad basketball, and they were the ones in the middle of it, unable to squeak out an undeserved victory.
Stephen Curry missed a Finals record 13 three-pointers. Klay Thompson poured in 34 points but missed 8 threes and took wayward jumper after wayward jumper down the stretch. The bench provided less spark than in Game 1 with their usual lack of spacing. Marreese Speights missed an open dunk in transition as the third quarter buzzer sounded. They passed the ball 217 times. Their playoff average as the number one passing team is 303. The game went about as ugly as any 48-53 minute affair has gone through in their history. And it happened on the biggest stage in basketball.
And then it was all fine as regulation ended. The Warriors had clawed back, as they had done against the New Orleans Pelicans, erasing an 11-point lead in a little over three minutes. They lost the game in overtime but only by a single basket.
When the Warriors have lost this postseason, it's been nearly complete dominance by the other team. On its face, the Warriors were beaten up all night, giving up 14 offensive rebounds and unable to push any kind of tempo. Sound familiar? It's because these Warriors have been here before, even if they've never experience it on this stage. The Memphis Grizzlies had stunted the Warriors offense for about three games in totality in the Western Conference semifinals.
The Grizzlies had also come into Oracle Arena, quieted them into a nervous flutter, and kept them under wraps as they trotted out with the same 1-1 series tie. Despite the Warriors losing twice to the Memphis Grizzlies, the deficits always felt more than the actual result. The Cavaliers bullied the Warriors in the paint, got open shots and missed, and somehow won the game by two points.
Now the Golden State Warriors head to Cleveland, dragged into the mud once again. They'll find a way to dispose of Matthew Dellavedova's defense - as the entire locker described the clanked 3s to simple missed shots - much in the way similar to Mike Conley Jr.'s in-your-jersey annoyingness. They'll speed up the tempo when Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut, and Festus Ezeli adjusts on the defensive boards the way they did against Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. These are easy facets of the game they will seemingly improve on along with better shooting from their MVP. There's just one problem between the Cavaliers and Grizzlies in-the-mud comparison.
The Warriors must adjust to LeBron James. And that's not a task many teams have ever done and come out on the other side victorious. This isn't an alarming loss. It's one that's exposed some of the few flaws that plague this Warriors team. They're not up against the wall because all teams are at this point in the season, 5 games left, and fighting for the greatest basketball title in the world.
It's a loss that once again tells the Warriors how they must improve and there has been no better place to get it together than away from home. The strange, dominant, fun Golden State Warriors postseason rolls along. This is a series.