OAKLAND, Calif. – For the last two years, Draymond Green has been described as the heart and soul of the Golden State Warriors. Never has that label been more fitting than in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, when Green’s energetic 28-point performance pulled the Warriors out of a sluggish start and led the team to a 110-77 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“The way they’re playing defense against our guards, Draymond’s going to be open all day,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “So he’s a good 3-point shooter. We like it when he gets that shot in rhythm, and he knocked them down tonight.”
Cleveland came out aggressive, building a quick six-point first-quarter lead. Turnovers were the story early. Golden State committed six in the first quarter and nine in the half, leading to eight Cavaliers points. After turning the ball over 17 times in Game 1, Cleveland was more careful in Game 2, surrendering just one in the first 12 minutes and five in the half.
“Well, tonight I thought we had a great first quarter, but they were still making the tougher plays,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought they got to all the 50-50 balls. They were tougher than us and more aggressive.”
Despite Golden State providing an early opening, Cleveland couldn’t take advantage. LeBron James went scoreless in the first quarter and the Cavs once again struggled shooting, connecting on 35.6 percent of their attempts in the first half, including 30 percent from 3-point range. Andrew Bogut picked up four blocks in his first eight minutes, spearheading a strong defensive effort. The Warriors found an offensive rhythm in the second quarter, using a 20-2 run to build an eight-point halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the game began to unravel. The Warriors gave Cleveland another opening early, when Curry went out minutes into the third quarter with his fourth foul. This time, Klay Thompson was there to fill the void. After shooting 3 of 9 in the first half, Thompson knocked down three of his four shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, to help the Warriors push the lead to 20 after three, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Golden State continued to get strong production from its second unit. After scoring 11 points in Game 1, Leandro Barbosa chipped in 10 on Sunday. Andre Iguodala (seven points) and Shaun Livingston (seven) were also effective. The Warriors’ motion-based offense was sharp, racking up 26 assists while the team connected on 54.3 percent of its attempts.
“I have a lot of empathy for bench players having been one myself,” Kerr said. “It’s a hard job to stay ready and sometimes not play. We have a group of real pros on the bench. Guys like Mo Speights, who it hasn’t been his series so far because of matchups, but he always stays ready. Barbosa, Livingston, obviously Andre is one of the best players in the league when we bring him off the bench. So we have a very professional group. They stay ready, and we’re lucky to be versatile and have a lot of options at our disposal, and our guys all stay ready for when they get their name called.”
James’ stat line was solid (19 points, nine assists, eight rebounds), but the former MVP received little help and had seven turnovers.
“I got myself in a lot of trouble tonight personally,” James said. “Turned the ball over way too much. And I said after Game 1 we just can’t turn the ball over against a great team and expect to win, and I had basically half of the turnovers.”
Kyrie Irving (10 points) was ineffective, J.R. Smith was held to single digits for the second game in a row while Kevin Love — who played just three minutes in the second half after experiencing dizziness, a result of an errant Harrison Barnes elbow in the second quarter — struggled to defend the Warriors’ constantly moving offense. Once again, the Cavaliers went to an isolation-heavy offense, looking like a team terrified to move the ball against Golden State’s long, switching defense.
“They took care of home court,” Lue said. “We know we’re going home. We have to play better. The guys are not discouraged. More pissed than anything. But we’ve got to be tougher. That’s the main thing for us. We’ve got to be tougher, got to play more physical, and then live with the results.”
The benches emptied early in the fourth quarter, and many of the 19,596 in the crowd followed suit. Two games into the Finals and Golden State looks like one of the best teams in NBA history, while the Cavs are one desperately searching for answers.