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With authority, Warriors get their points across│golden state warriors│cavs vs warriors

With authority, Warriors get their points across│golden state warriors│cavs vs warriors


The Golden State Warriors ran right at — and eventually, away from — the Cleveland Cavaliers 126-91 on Monday night in a game that offered some relief for a Warriors squad that needed to exorcise a demon or two. Golden State began in search of a kill shot. The Warriors were eager, possibly too ambitious, but it was hard to find much fault in their early execution. Stephen Curry blew past Kyrie Irving for the opening bucket. He went on to miss four straight afterward, but the process far exceeded the results. This was the way Curry and the Warriors needed to play. The man who spent much of the teams’ Christmas Day meeting on the periphery was putting his stamp on this one, to the tune of seven first-quarter shots and eight first-quarter points. (He finished with 20 points and 11 assists.) “I love that he took 20 shots,” Klay Thompson said of his backcourt mate. “When he’s aggressive, we go, and even when he misses them, it’s still going to keep the defense on edge because you know what he can do.” Meanwhile, on the other end, the Warriors were giving Cleveland nothing in the half court, thanks in large part to smothering defense from Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. The Cavs were squeezed to the point of managing only seven field goals in a rapid-pace first quarter. Durant’s defense on LeBron James was superb from the outset. “Offensively, I can do that pretty well, but defensively, I’ve been trying to just stay locked in and focused every game,” Durant said postgame. That focus appears to have paid off in a game in which James went 0-of-5 with a turnover against Durant as primary defender. Golden State’s coach matched his team’s zeal. Steve Kerr, habitually cautious about exposing center JaVale McGee to guard 3-point shooters, let his quirky big man roll against a fully spread floor. The Warriors gave up some open outside looks, but the trade-off was worth it. Golden State finished plus-10 in McGee’s 4:31 stint in the stanza. By the second quarter, Golden State had broken it open, helped along by reserves Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West all playing in fine form. The game delivered a dearth of suspense but a dash of drama. With 6:55 remaining in the second quarter, Green collided with a fast-breaking James, spilling the superstar small forward. It was a classic NBA Rorschach test, with partisans focusing on either Green’s hit or LeBron’s exaggeration of the contact. Richard Jefferson got in Green’s face as the factions squabbled. “I fouled him to stop the break, and he went down,” Green said. “And in the aftermath, I don’t know, I told [Jefferson] to get out of my face. Got a tech.” It was an evocation of the NBA Finals, if not a hint toward future dealings. Tangibly, it amounted to a flagrant 1 for Green, plus the aforementioned tech. The hit did not motivate James or his team, as Golden State continued to roll in the second quarter. In a span of less than two minutes, three Curry steals turned a big lead into a laugher. First, Curry snagged an Irving pass to nowhere, missing a layup that Durant put back. Then, with Zaza Pachulia switched onto James and LeBron deliberating over his route, Curry rushed in and swiped the rock for what became a Thompson corner 3. On the next possession, another opportunistic steal led to a Durant dunk. The second quarter’s crescendo moment might have been Pachulia doing his best Irving imitation, if not for what happened a minute later. With the buzzer begging, Durant tossed a pass out for a deep, desperation Curry 3. Steph hit the shot, hit the floor and danced on his back. Golden State led by 29, tied for the largest halftime deficit of LeBron’s career. Whatever issues the Warriors have had closing games, this lead was unloseable. The only meaning that followed was the clinching of another Green triple-double, a vicious Durant block of a would-be James dunk and practice time for newly acquired Cav Kyle Korver. As for the overall meaning, there maybe wasn’t much. Should these teams meet in the Finals, Monday’s rout will be forgotten the instant Golden State hits trouble. Still, it was a welcome sign for a team searching for its peak form. Curry was decisive, and his teammates followed suit. Eventually, in bigger moments than this, Curry will have to take the lead for the Warriors to escape the ghost of the “3-1 lead.”

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