It was the biggest game of the season again, as LeBron James and his defending NBA Champions Cleveland Cavaliers travelled to Oracle Arena to try and win both of their regular season matches.
Teams in different conferences play each other twice, home and away, during the regular season, and at the much-awaited re-match on Christmas Day, the Cavaliers came back from an 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win it 109-108 after a couple of contentious no-foul calls. During the last possession of the game, Kevin Durant could have won or tied it up, but was tripped and no foul was called. The league admitted to their mistake a day later. And just like Game 7 of the Finals, Kyrie Irving’s was the game-winning shot.
While this should just be like any other regular season game, and on paper it is like any of the 82 games each team will play during the regular season, both teams, and head coaches, Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors, realize that it is so much more. It is a first-hand look and attempt to work out plays specially designed for the opponents. This is because both teams are aware that if all goes to plan and execution, they will face each other in a three-peat of the NBA Finals, which at this moment stands at a championship each.
At the end of the first quarter, the Warriors outscored the Cavaliers 37-22, on the back of very good passing and team work. It is still remarkable to see the equitable sharing of the ball among Durant, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry. The Warriors lead the league, by a ridiculous margin, in the number of assists made.
The latter half of the second quarter was as close to perfection for the Golden State Warriors. After a huge 37 points in a very fast-paced opening quarter, Golden State added an even more impressive 41 second quarter points. But Draymond Green, the poster boy for bad fouls and over-emotional and over-enthusiastic plays, was called for a technical foul on James who wasn’t driving towards the lane.
Whether James flopped on the play is open to debate and interpretation. At the end of the first half, Durant led all scorers with 19 points, and Curry already had a double-double with 14 points and 10 assists.
The third quarter started off pretty much the way the first two quarters transpired. Thompson and Curry scored a 3-pointer each. And the Warriors led by as many as 36 points. By the end of the it, they already had their 28th game with 30 or more assists. According to the NBA website stats, no other team has more than eight such games. But the Cavaliers recovered somewhat on the back of a 15-1 run which reduced the lead to 24 points. The Warriors still led 95-71.
And it never got close, with the Warriors leading by as many as 39 points at one time. It was a statement that the Warriors knew they needed to make after having lost four straight games to the Cavaliers stretching back to those three at the NBA Finals. While fans around the world would have preferred a repeat of Game 7 of last year’s Finals, or the one on Christmas Day, the entire Golden State Warriors set up should be relieved, more than anything. And the 35-point blowout, 126-91, is very significant, in the bigger scheme of things.
Curry, Thompson, and Durant, scored 28, 26, and 21 points respectively, and Green had a triple-double, 11 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists. He also had five very important blocks to go along with it. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, never looked like they had a chance, even during an eight-minute stretch in the third quarter where they missed 12 shots in a row.
So, the Warriors and the Cavaliers will not face each other anymore in this regular season, and should everything go according to script, and injuries play no significant role, they should emerge as Conference Champions and try again in June for what should be a mouth-watering and record-shattering NBA Finals.
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Updated Date: Jan 17, 2017 10:48:14 IST