As NBA Finals move to Cleveland, Warriors looking unbeatable
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) When the Golden State Warriors returned to Cleveland in January for the first time since clinching the championship there last June, Stephen Curry raised a little stir when he said he hoped the visiting locker room ''still smells a little bit like champagne.''
The way the Warriors have thoroughly thrashed the Cavaliers through two games of the NBA Finals rematch, the MVP could soon be drenching that carpet again.
The Warriors won the first two games of the series by a combined 48 points, exhibiting a toughness and ferocity that was overshadowed by their glitzy offense during a record-setting regular season.
They have beaten LeBron James seven straight times – something no team has done before – and completely outclassed the Cavaliers in every facet of the game. The Cavaliers head home for Games 3 and 4 looking for answers they may not be capable of finding.
''I know the other side is looking forward to coming to our building where they had a lot of success last year,'' said James, who let it be known in January that Curry's comment didn't sit well with him. ''So we've got to bear down.''
Even more troubling for the Cavaliers is that the Warriors have not been the precise offensive machine they were during their 73-win regular season. They have turned the ball over 30 times in the two games and Curry is averaging just 14.5 points per game.
But the Warriors have dominated the series with defense and rebounding, blasting the Cavs on the glass, locking down Kyrie Irving and making James work to get to the rim.
''I just think it's easy to fall in love with our offense,'' Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. ''For the casual fan, the whole year they see the highlights. Our rim protection and perimeter defenders have been so great.''
Andrew Bogut blocked five shots in Game 2 and the Warriors squeezed seven turnovers out of James, who made just 7 of 17 shots. Coach Tyronn Lue has tried a number of different lineups looking for a spark, but has come up empty against a Warriors defense that is equipped to handle anything.
''They were tougher than us and more aggressive,'' Lue said.
For two years now the Warriors have heard criticism that they are just a finesse team, that they are just jump-shooters benefiting from the league's current hands-off rules. That they are a team that wouldn't hold up in the tougher eras of yesteryear against Jordan's Bulls or Bird's Celtics or Magic's Lakers.
But what they've shown in these Finals, in overwhelming the Cavaliers, is that they are so much tougher than some of the ornery old-timers give them credit for.
Two more victories would put the Warriors in the conversation for the best team ever. But that conversation already started in the postgame press conference after their 33-point win in Game 2.
''To say we're better than the Showtime Lakers, how can you say that?'' Draymond Green asked. ''We never played them.''
''We're better than the Showtime Lakers,'' Thompson quipped, a jab at his father Mychal who played on those teams.
The zinger drew big laughs, much like their play is doing to the Finals. They have turned one of the most anticipated matchups in years – Curry vs. LeBron Part II – into a laugher.
They have dismantled the Cavaliers at every turn and now it's uncertain that star forward Kevin Love will be ready for Game 3 on Wednesday after taking a blow to the head in the second quarter of Game 2. He is in the league's concussion protocol.
After the first two games, it looks like the Warriors passed their biggest test in the Western Conference finals when they rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat Oklahoma City.
The Thunder gave the Warriors fits with their length and athleticism, and the tandem of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook matched Golden State's intensity like few others could.
Through two games, Cleveland just hasn't measured up. And even James, one of the most cerebral players in the league, is having trouble identifying what the Cavs can do to turn things around.
''It's hard for me to kind of pinpoint what's not working and what could work right now,'' James said. ''Obviously not much is working, especially offensively.''
The Warriors insist that this is not as easy as they're making it look. They point out to whoever will listen that they haven't done anything yet and that this is no time to celebrate.
''It's a trap to think that we've figured things out and that we have the perfect formula to beat Cleveland and they have no chance in the series,'' Curry said. ''That's probably going to be the chatter the next 48 hours, but we have to stay inside our own little bubble and worry about what we're doing.''
They say the series is a long way from over, even if it looks that way right now.
''The hardest part of the series is coming up when we go to Cleveland,'' Thompson said. ''They'll be playing with a sense of desperation, and their fans are going to be really hungry.''