The Golden State Warriors were expected to roll over the Cleveland Cavaliers with Kyrie Irving out for the rest of the series. LeBron James had other ideas.
James recorded a triple-double with 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists as the Cavaliers were able to take Game Two of the NBA Finals with a 95-93 overtime victory.
For most of this one, it was ugly on both sides. Cleveland was able to win despite shooting only 33 percent from the floor and from three. The main reason they were able to even this series was their defense. The Cavaliers held the Warriors to 40 percent shooting and just 23 percent from three-point range.
Also, Matthew Dellavedova did a magnificent job in limiting Stephen Curry who struggled from the onset. Curry was limited to 19 points on 5-of-23 shooting, including 2-for-15 from three-point land.
With time running out and the Warriors down one, it was Curry who had the ball with the game on the line. This time, it was the MVP who missed and now the series shifts back to Cleveland evened up at one game apiece.
With Irving out, Klay Thompson took full advantage in the early going. Klay hit four of his first six shots, scoring nine of Golden State’s first 11 points.
The Warriors looked much more comfortable in this one than they did in the first quarter of Game One, but still struggled on the offensive end of the floor. After building a 20-12 lead, Golden State was held scoreless over the final 3:12 as Cleveland was able to even things up at 20 after one.
James continued to display his dominance as he hit 5-of-10 in the first for 10 points, while Curry managed just four points on 1-for-6 shooting.
Similar to Game One, each team found a better rhythm in the second as Klay Thompson and James continued their outstanding offensive performances. Each poured in 20 points in the first half as Cleveland would enjoy a 47-45 lead at the halftime break.
James was much more efficient in the first half hitting 7-of-13 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the free throw line to go along with six assists and six rebounds. Klay Thompson was even better knocking down 9-of-13 and two threes as the Cavaliers couldn’t find an answer for him.
The biggest area of concern for Golden State was the paint domination by Cleveland. The Cavaliers outscored the Warriors 26-12 in the paint, highlighted by Timofey Mozgov who had 11 points in the first half.
Meanwhile, Curry continued to fight his jump shot, hitting just 2-of-10 in the first half as he never seemed to settle into the flow of the offense. Draymond Green also labored through the first 24 minutes of play with two points on 0-for-3 from the floor and a minus-six rating.
In the third quarter, the Warriors defense was solid as they forced Cleveland to miss 10 straight shots at one point, but their offense continued to sputter.
The Warriors opened the second half just 2-of-9 from the floor, including 0-for-5 from three-point range as the Cavaliers held a 51-49 lead midway through the third quarter.
It was a putrid quarter on both ends as each team continued to fire up brick after brick. Cleveland outscored Golden State 15-14 in the third as they took a 62-59 lead into the fourth, despite shooting 34 percent through three quarters.
Cleveland was able to maintain a lead because of their advantage at the free throw line, as they hit 16-of-22 at the charity stripe.
As things got tough for Golden State in the fourth, their frustration continued to mount. Instead of working the ball around like they’ve done all season, the Warriors settled for more rushed shots and contested threes.
Cleveland would use back-to-back threes from Dellavedova and J.R. Smith to build their largest lead of the game at 11 as Golden State’s offense never got going. Every time the Warriors looked to make things interesting, the Cavaliers had an answer.
However, Golden State came with one final push as they used a 8-2 run to cut the lead to 85-80 with two-and-a-half minutes remaining. Harrison Barnes would cut the deficit to two with a three-point play as the game came down to the final seconds of regulation once again.
The Warriors defense would come up with a big stop, forcing an Iman Shumpert airball and Curry would drive right down the middle of the lane for a wide open layup to even the score at 87.
Once again, James had the ball in his hands with the game on the line and just like Game One, this one would head to overtime. James drove left and saw his left-handed layup roll just off the rim and Tristan Thompson’s tip attempt would miss as the buzzer sounded.
Cleveland would start the overtime session with a Shumpert three and a pair of James free throws to take an early five-point lead. However, Green picked a perfect time for his first field goals of the game, with a couple of putbacks to cut the lead to one at 92-91 with 1:53 remaining.
Curry would then sink a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 93-92 lead with 29 seconds remaining.
But it was Dellavedova who would make the play of the game, rebounding a missed shot from James Jones and getting fouled on his putback attempt. Dellavedova would step to the line and hit both free throws to put the Cavaliers ahead for good.
Golden State now heads to Cleveland searching for answers on how to get their offense going. Klay Thompson was solid with 34 points, but nobody else was able to help him out in this one. The Warriors are playing fine on the defensive end, but they need to find a way to limit the Cavaliers’ impact on the boards and keep them off the free throw line.
Cleveland outrebounded Golden State 55-45, with 14 offensive rebounds. Also, the Cavaliers were able to get to the line 40 times, while the Warriors only managed 25 attempts.
Nobody expected a series after the developments in Game One, but two games in, that’s exactly what has emerged.