The Golden State Warriors are dominating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, and the most worrisome parts of the ongoing vivisection, if you're a Cavaliers fan or if you're just someone who was hoping for a competitive series, are that the Warriors aren't playing at their best and the Cavaliers aren't playing at their worst. On Sunday, LeBron James almost had a triple-double by halftime, Stephen Curry turned the ball over eight times and the Warriors never sprouted wings and began breathing fire out of their eyes … that means that there's still room for improvement.
This series looks dead as Dillinger, and it has led to all sorts of worries that the Warriors have solved the league, that the NBA isn't going to be competitive for another five years, and that we already know what team is going to win every championship. Why are we even bothering? If the Cavaliers can't come close to them, can anyone?
If the Warriors sweep, KD re-signs for a cheaper deal, and they keep Klay, teams just gotta start building alliances or something idk- Vann R. Newkirk II (@fivefifths) June 5, 2017
(Newkirk's Tweet does make one want to experiment. A starting five of Westbrook/Harden/James/Leonard/Davis -- a.k.a., the All-NBA first team -- probably beats them, right?)
The one thing everyone agrees on, after watching two straight wipeouts, is that this series is over, and probably a bunch of future series as well. The wins have been so overwhelming, in fact, that much of the Warriors discussion has drifted away from this specific series and into the realm of history. Is this the greatest team ever? Can they go 16-0? Is Kevin Durant the real best player in the NBA? Could this team save us from alien invaders and potentially salvage the last dying gasps of American democracy?
Yet, I couldn't help but feel like these proclamations of historical superiority and futile resistance sounded familiar. In fact, I'm pretty sure I heard all of them last year.
It was, in fact, exactly one year ago today that the Warriors smashed the Cavaliers 110-77 at Oracle Arena, a more thorough defeat than the one the Cavaliers suffered on Sunday night, as definitive and all-encompassing as you can imagine. Draymond Green scored 28 points. Stephen Curry barely missed a shot, LeBron James only scored 19 points and turned the ball over seven times, and Kevin Love left the game with a concussion. It was a bad scene.
And we were certain at the time that this series was not only over, but an embarrassment.
Is there a mercy rule? #NBAFinals- Bill Reiter (@sportsreiter) June 6, 2016
Do you mean for this game, or the whole NBA Finals? https://t.co/PZX2VooZCD- Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 6, 2016
David Blatt: (snickering) Well, I could've done this. #NBAFinals- Casey Moore (@Casey_Moore) June 6, 2016
Every horrible thing you could say about the Cavaliers after the game was said. LeBron was lethargic and disinterested. Tyronn Lue was a yes-man who had no idea how to run a team. Cleveland was even more cursed a sports city than you thought it was. Love had run his course as a Cavalier and needed to be traded, if anybody even wanted him. And oh, man, Kyrie Irving -- he had a wretched first two games of the Finals last year. It was Irving, whose defense was under particular suspicion, that was mucking up the Cavaliers; my favorite was the suggestion that the Cavs should have held onto Andrew Wiggins and traded him.
The Warriors have outscored the Cavaliers by 42 points with Kyrie Irving on the floor this season.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 6, 2016
It wasn't just that the Warriors were incredible; it was that they owned the Cavaliers, in particular. Remember, this was the largest margin after two games in NBA Finals history. (This year's margin is second place, by the way.)
Warriors are 7-0 and +130 in last seven games vs. CLE.- Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 6, 2016
Golden State has now beaten Cleveland in seven straight games. Average margin of victory: 107-88 (+19).- Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) June 6, 2016
Warriors have committed 20 turnovers, taken 8 free throws, and lead by a gazillion points. Holy moly.- Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) June 6, 2016
A man named Chad Shanks, writing for a very smart statistical blog called "Statmuse," wrote a reasoned, detailed post titled, "Can a Series Be Over After Just 2 Games?" There isn't a word that any fair-minded person, or even Cavaliers fan, would have disagreed with at the time. Here's the money quote:
It's hard to not overreact when a team has been so thoroughly dominated in every facet of the game as Cleveland has, but even with Kyrie and Love healthy (to start the series at least), this Cavs team looks no better prepared for Golden State than the skeleton crew that was dominated in last year's Finals. … looking at the stats through the first two games, this one appears to be all but over.
The domination was so thorough that it even got itself memed.
When you take a 2-0 series lead... pic.twitter.com/MInLjGOLC8- NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 6, 2016
You can see where all of this is going.
In Game 3 last year, the Cavaliers rebounded in front of an emotional home crowd -- "we got back to playing our game," LeBron said, after two games of everyone telling him and his team they were terrible -- and all of a sudden, Steve Kerr was saying his team played soft ("They just punched us right in the mouth") and Curry was already getting exhausted by questions speculating that he was hurt. The Warriors won Game 4, but then Green was suspended, and then … well ... you may remember what happened after that.
So here we are, one year later to the day, just as certain as we were last year.
SMH, Kevin Durant has made the finals uncompetitive!- Benjamin Hoffman (@BenHoffmanNYT) June 5, 2017
Point diff through 2 games 2017: GSW +41
Point diff through 2 games 2016: GSW +48
And yes, Kevin Durant is on the team now, and he's basically playing like a mashup of LeBron and Curry at this moment. The Warriors surely remember last year as well as everyone else does and will certainly be on alert for any letdown.
But we are so certain we know how this is going to down this morning, just like we were absolutely certain last year. The only certainty of the NBA Finals trilogy between these two teams so far is that certainly ends up looking silly. The Warriors are up 2-0. They look unstoppable. And they just might be. But I dunno. This looks awfully familiar to me. Just in case: I'm going to avoid any tweets that some smug jerk will use against me in a column a year from now.
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