OAKLAND -- The plan was for the Cavaliers to come out and match or perhaps exceed the physicality of the Warriors. Golden State out muscled and out hustled Cleveland in Game 1, and coach Tyronn Lue made it an emphasis in his pregame press conference to point it out.
“(The officials) allowed a lot of physicality, and we’ve got to be physical,” Lue said before his team even took the floor on Sunday evening. “They’re being physical. All their switches with Steph on LeBron, he’s trying to be physical, bumping LeBron, and we have to take the same approach.”
That is exactly how Game 2 started. LeBron James attacked the rim. Tristan Thompson fought for every rebound. Even 35-year-old Richard Jefferson looked like he had fresh legs.
The Cavs build an eight point lead at 28-22 in the early second quarter and then the Warriors punched back. For a few minutes it looked like a heavyweight fight was about to break out, and then it went sideways for Cleveland.
Within seconds, the Warriors had cut the lead to one and stolen all of the momentum. In the blink of an eye, the game spun completely out of control for the Cavs.
“I turned the ball over, Draymond got it and was able to hit Livingston for a dunk,” James said. “And then we had another turnover and Klay (Thompson) hit a three. It kind of slowed us down.”
Light on their feet on the offensive end and in attack mode on the defensive side of the ball, the Warriors ran all over Cleveland, rattling off a 20-2 run to take a 42-30 lead with 5:09 remaining in the second quarter.
“I just thought when they went to the small lineup, their small lineup was a lot faster than what ours was,” Lue said following the game. “Being faster and being longer and athletic gave us some trouble. It gave us some problems.”
Cleveland fought back, turning to James and his bull rush to cut the Warriors lead to eight at the half, but it wasn’t nearly enough. The game was already headed in the wrong direction.
Golden State stomped on the Cavs in the third quarter, riding the hot hand of Draymond Green to push their lead as high as 20 in the quarter. To make matters worse, forward Kevin Love, who had taken an inadvertent elbow to the head in the second quarter from the Warriors Harrison Barnes, had to head to the locker room early in the third due to dizziness.
“Well, losing one of our top three players is always going to be a big impact,” Lue said. “But right now he’s in a concussion protocol, and right now he’s just day-to-day.”
Love finished the night with just five points and three rebounds in 21 minutes of action. If he can’t play in the Game 3, the Cavs will need someone else to step forward and pick up the slack.
The fourth quarter was much of the same as the Warriors throttled the Cavs to take Game 2 by a final of 110-73. They have now won seven straight over LeBron and company. Golden State has Cleveland’s number and the frustration has to be building behind the scenes.
“I’m not disappointed in our guys or frustrated, we’ve just got to do a better job,” James said. “Better in all facets of the game. Both offensively and defensively. Both physically and mentally. They just beat us at every...we didn’t win anything...”
Despite the pregame chatter, the Warriors were once again the aggressor. Green was electric for Golden State, hitting 5-of-8 from long range on his way to a game-high 28 points. Cleveland flat out had no answer for the All-Star forward.
“He made shots,” James said of Green’s big night. “Give credit where credit is due. The guy made shots. Not only when we left him open and contested late, but he made shots in our face.”
Stephen Curry added 18 points and Thompson wasn’t far behind with 17 as the Warriors picked up their fifth straight win.
It’s back to the drawing board for Lue his group of players. James looked solid during stretches, but he finished the night with just 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting. He added nine assists and eight rebounds, but he also turned the ball over seven times in the loss. He was uncharacteristically quiet when his team needed him the most.
“We can’t have as many mental lapses,” James said. “More than the physical, it’s a lot mental as well. These guys put you in so many mental positions where you have to figure it out, and they make you pay for it when you don’t.”
Kyrie Irving was a non-factor for Cleveland, shooting 5-of-14 from the floor on his way to 10 points. Jefferson chipped in 12 points as only three Cavs scored in double-figures on the night.
Golden State has outscored the Cavs by a combined 48 points over the first two games of the series. They head to Cleveland for Game 3 on Wednesday will a full head of steam. The Cavs are on the ropes and the Warriors look like a team hungry for their second straight NBA championship.