OAKLAND, Calif. – Inspired by the return of head coach Steve Kerr, the Golden State Warriors ran away with Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 132-113 to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“It was just great to be on the sidelines again,” said Kerr, who plans to coach the remainder of the series after struggling with a serious back condition. “That’s what makes it so much fun, to feel the energy of the Finals. And so it’s really nice to be back.”
It certainly was for the Warriors, who scored 40 first-quarter points – including 10-of-10 free throws by Stephen Curry – to take a six-point lead and never looked back.
The rapid pace played right to the Warriors’ strengths, but they were far from perfect in the first half, turning over the ball 13 times – which led to 17 Cavs points – and having some trouble with cheap fouls. Draymond Green had three fouls, and Curry and Klay Thompson had two each by halftime with the Warriors leading 67-64.
“We’re just trying to just stay in the moment,” Kevin Durant said. “But for the most part we just try to play hard and try to play smart every possession down. Can we do that? We could play hard every possession, but can we play smart? That’s the question sometimes.”
Durant, the hero of Game 1, was once again excellent, hitting four 3-pointers, grabbing 13 rebounds, blocking five shots and scoring 33 points, but the gaudy stats weren’t what impressed Kerr.
“I thought that Kev’s defense was unreal, and it was probably the key to the whole game,” Kerr said. “His defense was amazing, and we needed it. Especially with Draymond out [because of foul trouble].”
Curry did his best to keep up with his fellow former league MVP with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but he did have eight turnovers – six in the first half.
“The points that I gave up off turnovers – in their building – will electrify the crowd and their team and [are] the things that we have to eliminate,” Curry said. “So I’m obviously hard on myself and [am] my own biggest critic at times, and that’s something that I can control, just being smarter with the ball.”
LeBron James did all he could to keep the Cavs close in the first half, relentlessly attacking the basket, attempting no 3-pointers and recording 18 points, nine assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. He finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists, tying Magic Johnson’s Finals triple-double record at eight.
“The talent on the floor in this series is just unbelievable,” Kerr said. “Obviously, with Steph and K.D. and Klay and Draymond, but trying to stop LeBron and Kyrie [Irving], Kevin Love was tremendous tonight. It really is a series that’s just loaded with high-powered weapons all over the floor.”
Despite all that high-level talent, it was doing the little things that helped the Warriors make up for some of their shortcomings on Sunday night. The Warriors seemed to win the battle for loose balls, exploited their depth advantage by playing seven reserves and had the edge on the glass, finishing with a 53-41 advantage.
“We got to be better as far as not relaxing, not falling asleep, the loose balls, 50/50 balls, we got to get to those,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “And when you don’t get to them, they make you pay. Every mistake you make defensively, they make you pay, and you saw that tonight.”
Thompson’s stellar defense on Irving continued but Thompson also showed some life on the offensive end, shooting 8 of 12 for 22 points after struggling in Game 1. After a sluggish start that included four points and three turnovers in the first quarter, Irving didn’t get much better, scoring 19 points on 23 shots.
Kevin Love hit 12 of 23 shots and two 3-pointers, finishing with 27 points and seven rebounds and continuing a fine postseason in which he entered the game shooting 47.7 percent from 3-point range and 44.5 percent from the floor.
The series now shifts back to Cleveland for Game 3 on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET, and of course it’s a situation the Warriors have faced before.
“It’s been a great run, but none of that matters unless we can finish the job with this series,” Kerr said. “It was 2-0 last year and we lost. … Now we got to go back there. This is where the series changed last year, so we’re just trying to think about the next game.”
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• Game 1 illustrates why joining Warriors was right move for Kevin Durant
• LeBron James’ chance to eclipse Michael Jordan is upon us