Tony Brothers. Scott Foster. Lord Voldemort. These are just a few of the names that hang like a dark cloud of...cloudy darkness...over the Golden State Warriors franchise.
When the NBA announced that two of these names would join the crew to officiate game two, Warriors fans reacted as reasonably as you might expect.
The last time Scott Foster and Tony Brothers officiated a Warriors' game, the defending champs came unglued and trailed by 41 in OKC— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) June 5, 2016
Why was Scott Foster not named with Cleveland's starters?— Warriors Huddle (@WarriorsHuddle) June 6, 2016
Fortunately, the Foster Brothers' impact was understated. The zebras graciously allowed the world's greatest to play the game, and we all enjoyed a brisk, high-speed competition for most of the night during a 110-77 win.
The Cavaliers once again received a big free throw advantage, but at no point did the game seem to slant entirely in either team's favor.
The Cavaliers played a bit more focused from the onset, and they appeared to take their iso-ball criticisms to heart. LeBron James looked to create from the opening jump, and racked up five first quarter assists. The King was just 0-of-5 shooting however, due to the combined greatness of Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut. The former two shaded James perfectly at the perimeter -- playing him without fouling, and funneling him where the defense wanted him. But it was Andrew Bogut who did the heavy lifting, all but erasing any hope for points at the rim. He blocked five shots, and made 'grown man moves' on so many others.
Despite that, it was Draymond Green who stole the show. The suddenly controversial all-NBA forward nailed five three-point field goals to pace the Dubs with a game high 28 points, including 18 in the first half. Like so many times this season, he delivered when it counted most.
The Cavaliers took a healthy six-point lead in the second quarter with Stephen Curry on the bench due to foul trouble. LeBron James was being an unselfish playmaker on offense and defense; the team was moving the ball a bit better; and we even got a Richard Jefferson sighting! RJ chipped in a huge 12 points on six shots for the Cavs while the game was very much in play.
Money Green got the Dubs rolling in a huge way, as the team went small (Shaun Livingston at the 3, Andre Iguodala at 4 and Green at 5), and promptly snapped off a 20-2 scoring run. The Cavs went small in response and chipped away at the lead a bit, responding with their own 6-0 scoring run. That push made the halftime score 52-44 -- the Cavs shaken, but very much alive.
Tyronn Lue stayed with a small lineup to open the third quarter: LeBron James at the 5, Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, Kyrie Irving and JR Smith. The thought was the team could find a jolt of energy to climb back into the game, and shake up the Warriors. That did not happen.
Cavs have given up 14 points on 10 possessions since they went to LeBron at the 5 even with a buncha turnovers in there.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 6, 2016
It quickly became apparent that the 45-point game one bench explosion was not a fluke. Golden State ran up a 32-point lead in the fourth quarter lead as the other guys dominated the Cavaliers, no matter who was on the court. The crisp passing and energetic defense created too many quality scoring chances for a bunch of guys who are champions, already.
Final score: 110-77. Oof. Stephen Curry played just 25 minutes due to foul trouble and garbage time. Double oof.
Let's switch the narrative a bit, to talk about something much more important to the series: the Cleveland Cavaliers have a huge Warriors problem, having lost seven straight games to the blue and gold. It's just a 2-0 series advantage, yes, but the Cavaliers have shown depressingly little to expect an improvement.
It's not that the team is doing any one thing terribly -- the sobering truth is that they just don't look good enough. Honestly, this game looked like match between a 73-win team and a 57-win team. Somehow, funny enough, almost no one saw that coming. That's sports in the Internet age for ya.
Kudos to the referees for letting them play! There's no problem with free throws -- there's a problem with excessive stoppages and excessive free throws. The refs largely avoided shocking calls, although there are sure to be Cleveland fans questioning a couple of traveling violations (don't see those very often, especially on James).
Remember that elite defense from 2015? It's back after a long hiatus. The Dubs defense pretty much killed every positive that Cleveland could take away from game one, crushing the Cavs worse than the game before (despite talk that the series would swing the other way).
Andrew Bogut was Western Conference Finals elimination game Andrew Bogut, and it was glorious. He was jumping up and down all over the court, and often in position for an essential putback. He's a massive part of the Warriors big rebounding edge to start the game. Speaking of which, the Dubs dominated the glass 46-34. The Cavs went small a bit, sure, but in general that kind of advantage should not be possible for the Warriors (who went small quite a bit, themselves). Hate to use a cliche, but the Warriors just wanted it more. A lot more.
Very scary moment in the second quarter, as Harrison Barnes elevated for a rebound and wrist-thwacked Kevin Love in the back of the head. Love immediately crashed down, almost head first, and stayed down for about a minute or two before leaving the court. He would stay in the game, but later leave the game (and the bench). Reports are that he's in the league-mandated concussion protocol, meaning his status for game three is up in the air.
The Warriors cruised despite 21 team turnovers -- a large number for a blowout Finals win. Fortunately, the Cavaliers were nearly as sloppy with 18 turnovers, which evened up the score. LeBron James had 8 turnovers alone. As the series moves to Ohio, the Warriors will have to clean up their handle. They won't need another 9-turnover masterpiece, but 20 turnovers could be too big a number to overcome in Cleveland.
Since the Cavs led 28-22 in the 2nd quarter, the Warriors are on a 71-34 run.— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) June 6, 2016
This is the NBA freakin' Finals
Warriors have committed 20 turnovers, taken 8 free throws, and lead by a gazillion points. Holy moly.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) June 6, 2016
the warriors are only good cuz the rules nowadays make it eas-- pic.twitter.com/oKjfzvhl9H— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) June 6, 2016
Warriors have now won 87 games (regular season and playoffs); ties 1995-96 Bulls for most combined wins in a single season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 6, 2016
The Warriors travel to Cleveland for game three, Wednesday night at 6pm (PST). A victory there would all but assure Golden State of its second consecutive NBA championship.