When the buzzer sounded after Golden State’s emphatic 104-89 win over Cleveland late Thursday night, there was already a championship vibe flowing through Oracle. A feeling of inevitability that the hometown Warriors would be crowned NBA Champions in 2016, and with good reason.
The opening game of this year’s Finals seemed a mismatch from the get-go, with a quick flurry in the third quarter being the only bright spot for Cleveland. The Cavs’ shocking lack of both ball and man movement made it easy on the Dubs defensively, and their lack of cohesiveness and heavy reliance on iso-ball was very reminiscent of last year’s matchup.
And that’s the least of Cleveland’s worries. The most concerning part of Thursday’s drubbing had to be the ease at which Warrior’s players got easy looks. It seemed as if almost every possession Golden State was getting the shot they were looking for. This game could’ve been a historic blowout if it wasn’t for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson having their worst statistical outputs of the season, as the Western Conference champions barely broke a sweat getting the looks they wanted on the offensive end, a far cry from the Western Conference Finals.
This series is already starting to look like a let-down for us fans and the Warrior’s players, after a grueling, rugged, thoroughly entertaining conference finals, where the Dubs found nothing easy. Their 3-point shooting was spotty to say the least, but that can be attributed to Oklahoma City’s quick switching and excellent communication. The overwhelming presence of both Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams made Golden State work for everything they got inside.
Russell Westbrook was playing with his usual reckless abandon, and Kevin Durant finally looked like he was finally ready to take charge of the Thunder and lead them to a championship, and it all led to a 3-1 series lead, and they were on the brink of their first Finals appearance since 2012.
But then the Splash Brothers got hot. Really hot. The two averaged an absurd 62.3 points per game over the final 3 games and shot a ridiculous 49% from distance, and that, along with some poor closing by the Thunder, were enough to push them over the hump. Barely. They were pushed to the brink by the team that was able to dismantle the 67 win Spurs the series prior. They had to earn everything they got, and if the Cavs don’t start playing with the defensive tenacity that the Thunder did, this series could already be done and dusted.