If the Cleveland Cavaliers can’t win on a night when Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combine to make 8 of 27 for just 20 points, this series is gonna be over real quick. On Thursday, the Warriors' bench picked up the slack for the Splash Brothers, outscoring Cleveland’s bench 45-10, and doing all the heavy lifting in a 104-89 victory.
The Warriors finished the first quarter up 28-24, and the second quarter opened inauspiciously for the Cavs, as LeBron James missed a layup and then missed twice more on putbacks. Minutes later, a Kevin Love jumper would get the Cavs back to within 4, but a Draymond Green 2-pointer, followed by a Leandro Barbosa bunny and 3-pointer would give the Warriors some breathing room as they went up 39-28. A pair of free throws by James late in the second would get the Cavs to within 6, but a Green 3-pointer would be the final word on the half, making it 52-43.
Down 56-45 early in the third quarter, the Cavs scored seven straight points to narrow the gap to 4 points, whereupon Golden State head coach Steve Kerr called a timeout. The normally mild mannered Kerr, a veteran of 6 NBA titles as player and coach, got so frustrated he smashed his wipe board to pieces.
“Destruction tends to ease some of the anger, so I try to take it out on a clipboard instead of a player. It’s better that way,” Kerr explained afterward.
The Warriors came out of the time out and Andre Iguodala promptly drained a 3 to stop the bleeding, but the Cavs kept coming, eventually overtaking Golden State 66-65 on a Tristan Thompson field goal. Moments later, after an exchange of buckets, a Shaun Livingston layup would put the Warriors back up 69-68.
Late in the third quarter, with Iguodala dribbling at the top of the arc, Matthew Dellavedova came running up from behind and took a blind swat at the ball. The swipe was well wide of its target, instead hitting Iguodala square in the other two balls, and getting Delly called for a foul. Unbowed and undaunted, Iguodala dropped a 26-footer on the ensuing inbounds play to close out the scoring for quarter at 74-68.
The fourth quarter was all about Shaun Livingston, a man who nearly a decade ago so badly injured his knee there was talk of possible amputation. While Curry and Thompson made just 2 of 5 shots for 6 points in the final quarter, Livingston threw the Warriors on his back, hitting on 3 of 3 from the floor, and 4 of 4 from the charity stripe, for a total of 10 points, to go along with 2 assists, 2 rebounds and a steal. The Warriors lead would grow to as much as 20 on an Iguodala dunk midway through the quarter, at which point it was all over but the cryin’.
LeBron James had a ho-hum-for-him night, posting a 23-12-9, but that’s not gonna cut it against the Warriors. Maybe he figured with Irving and Love riding shotgun he could lighten his workload after having done EVERYTHING in last year’s Finals, but he was wrong. Until Kyrie can do better than 7 of 22, James can’t afford to take his hand off the stick. If the Cavaliers can take any solace from Thursday’s game, it’s that the Warriors bench is unlikely to again outscore the Cleveland bench by 35. Then again, it’s even less likely that the Splash Brothers will again combine for 20.