Golden State sure did thump Cleveland in their previous meeting, but there are things we should look at as the NBA season draws close to the second half of the season.
10. Kevin Durant fits perfectly to the Warriors.
If you think you have seen much from KD. Think again.
The Finals MVP dropped 32 points on 9-16 shooting. He took 6 threes and made four of them for a staggering 66.7 percent from downtown. This isn't your typical KD. This is the OKC-era Durant, where he is a high volume scorer, and a very efficient defender as well.
Durant banked in a wide-open three to make it 116-104 in the final minute of the game, and that broke every Cleveland fan's heart, and sent them to an early exit. Also, he threw down the hammer on LeBron James after a turnover. Talk about defense to offense.
Kevin Durant soars high for a fastbreak jam over LeBron James midway through the second quarter. Photo by SportsCenter
9. The rivalry isn't really on.
The Cavaliers acquired Dwayne Wade, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Jeff Green. While the Warriors kept their core, the Cavaliers revamped everything but centered around LeBron. These new Cavaliers have nothing to do with the two-year rivalry these two teams are embroiled in. They are lacking intensity in terms of keeping up with LeBron's pace in the game. If these teams ever meet again in the Finals, then Thomas and company need to step up and help LeBron.
Even so, the Warriors just seem to keep experimenting lineup combos with multiple sidelines on their superstars. Steve Kerr knows this and the Warriors did not seem that dangerous from the three-point line when they came in this game.
Whether you believe it or not, this Cavs-Warriors game hoisted a foul festival, with both sides having 45 combined fouls. The game has been intense on this side, crashing boards, diving for loose balls.
LeBron goes up to defend a cutting Stephen Curry. Photo by ESPN
Even the defense had pushed both teams to commit a combined 31 turnovers in the game, and that certain amount of turnovers - from two title contenders is a bit askew. However, it can either mean that both teams have improved on defense, or it's just not that time of the season where games get to the wire-to-wire type.
7. Isaiah Thomas isn't that ready - and Cleveland still needs to adjust.
The Cavaliers took on the Warriors last Christmas with much ferocity where that game went to the final bucket at 99-92. Isaiah Thomas returned to the lineup against the Warriors, well the game went haywire as the Warriors dominated the entire half of the fourth quarter to keep the Cavs away from clawing their way back. He just shot 8-21 from the field by the way and hasn't been that athletic since his Boston days.
Isaiah Thomas drives from the 3pt line against the Warriors. Photo by CBS Cleveland.
Cleveland clicked early in the season after struggling due to lineup changes as they went from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to the top three with Boston and Toronto. That was without Isaiah Thomas. Lue has to figure out a trick in his sleeve to keep Cleveland from falling apart.
6. The Warriors are not YET in top shape.
Injuries have plagued the Warriors early in this season. All five starters except for Pachulia have recorded injuries, and yet Steve Kerr keeps on figuring out with whatever pieces are left for him as the Warriors remain to sit up top the Western Conference at 37-9 which happens to be the current best record in the NBA.
However, the Warriors are getting sloppier. They committed 17 turnovers in the game, even so, they just only shot 37.5% from the 3pt line. The Warriors should try to revamp their game if they look to thump Cleveland should they meet in the Finals.
5. LeBron needs backup - and fast.
Judging by their performance in this game, LeBron carried the Cavaliers in his backpack. James is the only Cavalier to score more than 20 at 32 points on 12-18 shooting, next to him is the struggling Isaiah Thomas at 19 points. Kevin Love went in a silent, foul-riddled night with 17 points. Even Wade, who is supposed to be a spark off the bench went 5-14 from the line with 10 points.
Cleveland is in trouble. And adding another scorer would be good for the Cavs - if they want to keep LeBron until next summer.
4. Depth Matters.
The bench had a powerful impact in this game. Golden State's bench contributed 29 points, Cleveland's bench added 25 (and 10 of those points were from Dwyane Wade). The Cavaliers need more than Kyle Korver firing off the three-point line or Tristan Thompson just crashing offensive boards.
Even so, the Warriors have to make adjustments to their bench as well. Their fluid offense relies on effective 3pt shooting, yet the bench went 1-7 from behind the arc. They will need to provide quality offense in little minutes if the Warriors are going to be an offensive juggernaut.
3. Free throws are part of the game and must go in to win.
As Golden State went purely from the foul line at 80% on 24-30 free throws, the Cavaliers meanwhile have struggled mightily on 15-22 for 68.2% shooting. LeBron missed 4 of them in the game, KD in comparison went 10-10 from the free throw line. This stat line shows us how crucial free throws are when these two teams battle. And clearly, the Cavaliers have a lot of adjustments to make to draw a lot of contacts and prevent the Warriors from getting easy shots.
2. Curry and Thompson are laying low.
KD sure made his presence felt in the game, but Curry and Thompson quietly added 23 and 17 respectively. The Splash Brothers shot 50% from the three-point territory, all while they fly under Kevin Durant's scoring prowess. They need more than just a "silent game" if they are going to get serious about leading the league. And there's still a problem that remains to be solved, which is...
1. LeBron is still the King, with Durant clawing at his throne.
The King dropped 32 points, 8 boards, 6 assists, 3 steals and 4 big blocks en route to a 118-108 loss to the Warriors. He shot 12-18 from the field, and at age 33, he is still kicking a lot for a 33-year old player who ended Cleveland's 52-year sports curse. Even so with Durant matching him with 32 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists, LeBron still clearly dominates the game. And that shows his excellent play style and high basketball IQ in keeping the Cavaliers within the game. He is still the King.
LeBron congratulates KD after a fierce battle in the Q. Photo from The Mercury News