The defending champion Golden State Warriors are two games away from their third championship in four years, after a thrilling 122-103 drowning of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland last night.
Didn’t GSoM’s prophetic scribe Greg Thomas predict this bloodbath in his Game 2 preview? I’m pretty sure he did.
Anyways, there’s so much to contemplate, and seemingly never enough time, so let’s jump straight into some gold-blooded musings, baby!
Weaponize that Joy
If you’ve been following this blog, you know about my theory of “Weaponized Joy”. That’s the experience of the Warriors and their fans salivating over crushing an opponent with unselfish, high-risk, humiliating, basketball dominance.
This was epitomized last night as Steph Curry led Golden State into a feeding frenzy by drilling an NBA Finals record NINE three-pointers.
Steph made an NBA Finals-record 9⃣ threes in Game 2. Let's relive them all pic.twitter.com/vSqwH0vIvZ— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 4, 2018
He would finish with 33 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists. Remember back in the 2016 Finals when he was dragging around a bad knee and couldn’t consistently blow by Cleveland’s big men?
Yeah, I’d say he’s feeling healthy now. His 16 point fourth quarter was built by him vaporizing any big man the Cavs threw at him on their lazy switches. Some might even wonder if the Cavs defenders felt...”helpless”?
Tristan didn’t like being asked if he felt “helpless” against Curry. pic.twitter.com/kqi3i8YXzo— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 4, 2018
But “Unanimous” didn’t rip Cleveland’s throat out on his own.
Kevin Durant was chillingly unstoppable. His defense was stout. I think I’m finally starting to realize why people called the champs a Super Team: because Durant is pretty darn good at this roundball game.
“SlimVP”, as he’s known to Cleveland, ripped off 26 points (on 10-of-14 shooting!!), 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. and 2 blocks. In the highlight clips for Javale McGee and David West, check out who set them up. That’s right, “The Servant” Durant was serving up beautiful assists all night.
He kept the Warriors motion offense humming with elite playmaking from a man his size, while still picking his spots to assassinate any poor Cleveland defender left on an island against him. He attacked relentlessly, living in the paint. After much murmuring and complaining about his falling in love with isolation offense this post season, Durant emphatically reminded us that he is a complete player who can do it all.
Klay Thompson heroically shook off a painful high ankle sprain that his teammate Draymond Green didn’t even think he could play on. Thompson splashed in 20 points on a beautiful 8-of-13 shooting, and played his trademark lockdown defense. This young gun is TOUGH. He even shared a cute moment with his Brother of Splash about ankle issues postgame.
Klay forgot to consult Steph about his ankles pic.twitter.com/dyn1I2jIYB— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 4, 2018
The greatest shooting trio in NBA history resides in the Golden State. When the Warriors offensive death machine is humming at optimal levels, those three are constantly whirring around the court, hunting for optimal shot opportunities.
Of course, it helps when you have one of the best passing forwards in the game quarterbacking for you. Green had 7 assists to go with 8 rebounds and his usual tenacious D. He was swarming LeBron James near half-court on select possessions like a true Defensive Player of the Year.
Warriors had 28 assists tonight. They're 52-8 this season when they spray out at least 28 assists, 8-0 in the playoffs.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) June 4, 2018
Big Men Stand Up
The 73-win, 2015-2016 edition of the Warriors found themselves in a Game 7 against the Cleveland Cavaliers with some suspect options at center. With the original “Death Lineup” wounded and gassed, do you remember what head coach Steve Kerr had to choose from that night? A crippled Andrew Bogut, a clueless Festus Ezeli, a winded Marreese “Mo Buckets” Speights and the empty shell of professional flopper Anderson Varejao.
Dieter Kurtenbach of the Mercury News wrote about that horrid evening in the fall of 2017, in discussing Kerr’s burden of figuring out the current big man rotation:
“(Kerr) has struggled to manage big-man minutes in the past, as best exemplified by Game 7 of the NBA Finals, where Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao combined to play more than 19 minutes and provide only single point, a single rebound, no field goals, and five fouls, combined. The Warriors were outscored by 18 points in those 19 minutes.”
Over the current season, Kerr has not been shy about plugging in his various center options. I can’t count the times I would check out a GSoM comment section after a (rare) Warriors loss and chuckle as folks argued over which big man needed more minutes. Clearly, Coach Kerr had a method to his madness, as Logan Murdock explained for the Mercury News on the eve of the playoffs:
While the current lineup carousel might not be ideal from a consistency standpoint, the players involved have complimented Kerr’s communication throughout the season. Typically, Kerr will inform the players of their assignments during the morning shootaround hours before the game.
“Steve has been clear about that,” Warriors backup center David West said. “It’s a matter of being ready. Knowing what the matchup is going to be. Now with a series, it doesn’t change from night to night. I think Zaza, JaVale, Loon, and (Jordan Bell), those guys have handled it as well as you can.”
“It helps a lot,” Looney said. “Just knowing that you’re going to play and knowing what he expects out of you gives you confidence in your role.”
In the postseason, we’ve witnessed JaVale McGee (with a gold grill in his mouth) flummox the Spurs in Round 1. Then we saw Kevon Looney effectively spell Draymond Green when Kerr decided to go small-ball against the Pelicans in Round 2. In the conference finals, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell were hurled into the deep end of the pool, tasked with corralling potential MVP James Harden and the desperate magic tricks of future hall-of-famer Chris Paul.
Now, here we are, two games into the NBA Finals, and Kerr’s experimental rotations are paying tremendous dividends against the rival Cavs.
JaVale McGee received the starting nod in Game 2, played a strong 18 minutes, and made all 6 of his shot attempts. His dunks felt like exclamation points that kept the team and crowd rolling.
JaVale with the strong finish— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) June 4, 2018
The rest of the bigs’ plus/minus was a tantalizing +20 (excluding Pachulia’s 3 garbage time minutes). Bell and Looney rotated fairly well defensively, set good screens, and fought hard against Cleveland’s talented front line. Now we’ll get into Steph Curry’s magical night in a bit, but first let’s take look at the Splash Uncle, David West!
DAVID WEST FOR 3! pic.twitter.com/IeS5pR9NvC— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) June 4, 2018
Who said the Warriors don’t have a big man?! #inKerrwetrust #notoriousbigs
What’s the opposite of “Weaponized Joy”? The 2017-2018 Cavs
Watching 33-year-old LeBron James drag the Cavaliers into yet another Finals loss is like watching the world’s greatest Burger King manager angrily boss around his stoner employees, two hours before closing time.
There goes Mr. LeBron in his crisply ironed uniform, nametag shiny as hell, huffing and scowling. Watch him as he directs traffic with angry points, shakes fries, flips patties, taking orders from customers with a passive-aggressive, forced smile. He does it all, folks!
“Bron Bron” is generally recognized as the greatest player of his generation, which really makes his team’s annual Finals suffering at the hands of my hometown team must see TV for me. Still, this was way more fun when Kyrie Irving was there. Now, it’s becoming rather macabre.
JR Smith received a standing ovation by the Warriors’ crowd when introduced in the starting lineup.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 4, 2018
How many times will King James pound the air out of the ball before lasering a beautiful pass to a random Cavalier who we all know can’t shoot? How did he drag this bag of misfit toys to the NBA Finals? He has to be depressed.
Fans are chanting “MVP” while JR Smith is at the free throw line.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 4, 2018
I watched LeBron’s podium interview last night after he stuffed the box sheet in his 14th Finals loss to Curry’s Warriors. The man literally has a black eye from trying to score on Green. He’s giving his all, and one can only hope the Cavs are going to play their best game of the season in Game 3, in “The Land”. Otherwise, I’d bet he’s OUTTA THERE in the offseason.
You know how Bron is.
Dubs take the first 2 games at Oracle pic.twitter.com/Em9vCfzqsd— NBCSAuthentic (@NBCSAuthentic) June 4, 2018
Maybe Cavs fans can warm their hearts in the downtime we have until Wednesday’s Game 3 tilt by remembering that there was some hope for their franchise in February after they nuked the Isiah Thomas-Dwyane Wade era.
LOL, oh how I love that clip. But seriously, Warriors fans know better than anyone that no series lead is safe against the Cavs. Game 3 should be craaazy.
Oracle Arena was a “lituation” in Game 2
This could be the last game at Oracle this season, folks. What a better way to do Oakland fans proud than by rocking those sleek “Town” Nike alternate jerseys. Seeing the Warriors wearing black and stomping the Cavaliers felt like the most hyped funeral celebration of all time.
.@SantanaCarlos & @drumstress perform the National Anthem before Game 2! #NBAFinals pic.twitter.com/0NSY14tCAm— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) June 4, 2018
At one point during the broadcast, the Bay’s anthem “Tell Me When To Go” by E-40 and Keak Da Sneak hit, during a slow motion replay of Curry celebrating a deep three by transforming into a screaming baby Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Look, I know most of y’all ain’t from Oakland, and that’s all gravy. But for those of us who are? It was sweet, if fleeting, reparations for all the time our great city has been ignored or treated like the elephant graveyard in the “Lion King” movie.
This win was for everyone wondering as a kid why they would show San Francisco in the B-roll in between gameplay, even though the game was in East Oakland. It was for anyone who ever wistfully wondered why the team was never named the “Oakland Warriors”. And, it was definitely for any Dubs fan who was asked by some out-of-towner where exactly “Golden State” is on the map.
It was #TownBizness!
Now let’s swing it over to the Ambassador of the Bay, E-40 himself at courtside.
@E40 on @StephenCurry30...#NBAFinals #NBACelebRow pic.twitter.com/yTV8jyaj03— NBA (@NBA) June 4, 2018