The Cleveland Cavaliers played an intensely ugly game of basketball tonight against the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors shot 53.6% from the field, the Cavaliers 42.9%. The Warriors shot 68.8% from three, the Cavaliers 22.2%. Those are the only numbers you really need to know. Golden State actually turned the ball over two more times than the Cavs, and had less points in the paint. But this is one of the best shooting teams in the NBA, and when you don’t play anything resembling team defense, as the Cavs are wont to do, games can get out of control. This wasn’t a fun game of basketball to watch. The Cavs seemed to be perpetually losing by twenty (no matter the actual deficit), and the whole event was rather low-energy; it basically consisted of Illness-Ridden Kyrie Irving and Co. clanking jumpers while Klay Thompson turned into Reggie Miller circa 1990. Still gotta pay the rent, though, so let’s go ahead and take a look at this game.
The Warriors ran out to an early 13-4 lead. The Cavs did not look sharp early. But the Warriors were missing Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson hadn’t yet discovered that he’s the world’s greatest three-point shooter, and Tristan Thompson is decent at basketball, so the Cavs managed clawed their way back to a 23-23 tie by the end of the first. The second quarter, however was when Golden State Klay and the Warriors started making every shot they took. The Cavs continued their mediocre play, but it stopped being enough to keep the game tight. This one could have gotten out of hand if Dion Waiters didn’t play the role of Kyrie Irving tonight; at the end of the second, he started driving and scoring and dishing and scoring and dishing again. At the end of the half, the Cavs were down 11, 55-44.
In a surprising but not altogether unwelcome turn of events, Tyler Zeller started out the second half matching the Warriors jumper for jumper. But the third quarter was not pretty. Now, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters deserve a lot of grief for not sticking on Klay Thompson. He was left standing alone far too often. But it wasn’t just Klay Thompson. In the third the Warriors just started dropping buckets. Draymond Green, Jarrett Jack, hell, even Kent Bazemore got into it at the end of the quarter. Kyrie remained as off-kilter as he did the rest of the game, and the quarter ended with the Cavs down 16, 84-68. In the fourth quarter, it seemed like the Cavs might threaten a comeback, as they seem to have made a habit of recently. The Warriors cooled down, and the Cavs were only one Kyrie Irving explosion away from making this one a legitimate game. Sadly, that explosion never came. Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson scored a few more times apiece to end it, and the Cavs lost 108-95.
– Kyrie was really awful tonight. The Warriors played a zone defense that he just couldn’t drive through and around. This, combined with the fact that his jumper was off (wayyyy off) made tonight an ugly one scoring-wise. But he didn’t really adjust to the way the game was going, ending up with only four assists and getting torn apart by everyone he tried to defend. Let’s write this one off as flu-related.
– Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller were pretty much the only Cleveland players capable of scoring tonight (18 for Dion and 16 for Zeller), and yet both of them got ravaged by whoever they were guarding, on any given play. Dion floated off his man all game, which is always bad but especially egregious when your man is Klay Thompson and he can’t miss. Zeller was just abused in the post all game by David Lee and pretty much every other big man on the Golden State roster.
– Tristan Thompson was a dominant force on offense, and a disappointment on defense. He finished powerfully all game, and ended up with 18 and 11 on 8-14 shooting. But he could not do a single thing to stop the Warriors front line. Sure, David Lee? David Lee’s an All-star. But Festus Ezeli is not, and even he got a few easy points.