Sure, the Cleveland Cavaliers were considered by many NBA bettors to be non-starters for Sunday night’s Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, because they were going to have to operate without Kyrie Irving, after his knee finally gave out and set in motion some controversy that might not die down for some time.
Cleveland has had throughout this playoff season is defense, and that has been the case whether Irving has been in the lineup or not. In fact, there is not a lot of tangible evidence to indicate that it is better on the defensive end with Irving. So what they have done is throw Matthew Dellavedova out there and tell him to be a pest, in particular as it concerns Steph Curry. So all the Australian native did was help to hold Curry to 5 of 23 from the floor in the 95-93 overtime win.
If you used the Warriors’ home record as a barometer, this was a monumental victory for the Cavs, as they dealt Golden State just their fourth loss in 51 games at the Oracle Arena. And they did it short-handed. They are still short-handed, though all hands on deck have come together, with the exception of JR Smith, who still doesn’t appear to have a clue what they are trying to get accomplished on the defensive end.
Since January 13, when LeBron James came back from an “injury,” the Cavaliers (34-10) have been right there with the Warriors (38-10) as far as the best won-lost mark in the league from that point. And since January 19, the Cavs are 26-2 straight-up at home, and they have allowed 41.5% shooting during that stretch, which is about where they are for the entire playoffs.
Steph Curry going 5 of 23 from the floor, and the Golden State “bigs” totaling three field goals, the Warriors still wound up coming back from an eleven-point deficit with 3:13 remaining to force overtime. Sure, there is upside, and Curry and Klay Thompson are capable of draining more than six triples, as they did in Game 2.
But King James is capable of better than 11 of 35 from the floor as well, and if you watched Sunday’s game you saw that he got butchered quite a bit late in the game and didn’t get the calls. That won’t happen on Tuesday. Cleveland brings defense, and also has established Tristan Thompson (rebounding) and Timofey Mozgov (scoring) on the inside. They also have won the battle of “pace,” as they have slowed these two games to an average of 88.9 possession per 48 minutes, which is absurdly low. Let’s see what kind of damage they can do with their three-point guys too.