N.B.A. Finals 2018: Warriors Roll Over Cavs in Game 2

Tristan Thompson struggles to keep control under the basket in the second quarter.

There were no controversial foul reversals, no gaffes and not nearly as much competitive spirit. This time around, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were simply outplayed by Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, with a huge fourth quarter closing a 122-103 win in Game 2 of the N.B.A. finals Sunday night at Oracle Arena in Oakland.

Curry was electric, pouring in a finals-record nine 3-pointers as part of a 33-point effort. The two-time winner of the N.B.A.’s Most Valuable Player Award also contributed eight assists and seven rebounds.

But unlike James, who has so often had to go it alone, Curry had help from the entirety of his team’s eight-man rotation, with Kevin Durant contributing 26 points, Klay Thompson having 20 and the team’s surprising choice as a starting center, JaVale McGee, scoring 12.

Cleveland did everything it could to slow down Golden State’s runs for the first three quarters. Coach Tyronn Lue snuffed out a few rallies with smart timeouts, and James tried to keep up with the hot-shooting Warriors. But after the game entered the fourth quarter still somewhat competitive, Curry put it away with five of his 3-pointers coming in that final period.

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The impact of Curry’s explosion in the fourth was so extreme that Cleveland pulled its starters with more than four minutes remaining and the score well out of hand.

In an on-court interview with ABC’s Doris Burke following the game, Curry talked about what it was like to break the record for 3-pointers in a final game that Ray Allen had set for the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the 2010 championship series.

“It means a lot,” Curry said. “As I’ve gone through my career I’ve been blessed to play, Reggie (Miller) and Ray Allen are the two names that always pop up at the top of all the 3-point shooter lists, so any time you’re mentioned with those type of names is pretty special.”

James was not quite as dominant as he had been in Game 1, but he once again stuffed the box score with 29 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds, playing through an eye injury he sustained in Game 1 courtesy of a poke by Draymond Green. His offensive impact was well beyond the 29 points, as he repeatedly set up Kevin Love (22 points) and George Hill (15) for quality shots. James also had his typical impact on defense, more than once ripping the ball out of Durant’s hands.

The difference for Golden State was that it got back to its ball-movement offense, with the team combining for 28 assists and coupling that with a far better effort on the glass, matching the Cavaliers with 41 rebounds. But Golden State had a dramatic advantage in field goal percentage (57.3 percent versus 41.6 percent), which essentially sealed the Cavaliers’ fate.

A big part of the team’s ability to compete on such a high level on both ends of the court was 34 solid minutes from Klay Thompson, who was questionable coming into the game with a high-ankle sprain sustained in a collision with J.R. Smith in Game 1. He received a great deal of treatment on his ankle to deal with swelling and bruising, but played through the injury just fine, which led to an amusing exchange between Thompson and Curry at their postgame news conference.

“I didnt realize how much you use your ankle until I hurt it,” Thompson said.

Curry, who endured chronic ankle problems earlier in his career, brought down the room by interjecting with “You should’ve asked me.”

Coming into the series, much was made of the talent disparity in the starting lineups of the two teams. Curry, Durant and Thompson each topped 20 points for a second consecutive game, but between McGee coming off the bench to have a huge impact at center, and the team getting huge minutes from older veterans like Shaun Livingston and David West, it could be argued that it was the reserves who made this a blowout just as much as the team’s All-Stars.

Livingston and McGee combined to go a perfect 11 of 11 from the field, which Lue said they would simply have to put up with if they want to stand a chance in the series, though he acknowledged he would like to see his team make it a bit harder.

“I mean, when you’re trying to take away Klay, Steph and Durant, other guys are going to be open,” Lue said. “So, you’ve got to make those guys beat you, but they can’t get easy baskets and dunks and things like that.”

The series will now shift to Cleveland for Game 3 on Wednesday, and if anything, the talent disparity could tip even more in Golden State’s favor with Andre Iguodala close to returning from a bone bruise in his left knee. Thompson also will have had a few more days to let his injured ankle recover.

The Warriors are just two wins away from being back-to-back champions, and the competitive spirit that was so prevalent in Game 1 — from both teams — may be in danger of breaking. It will require a huge counterpunch from the Cavaliers to make this a series once again.

Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, who is well aware of his team’s tendency to have a let-down game following a blowout, seemed happy with the win but was not ready to declare the series over just yet.

“Yeah, we’re happy with the way we played,” he said. “But we know this is just getting started.”

Here’s how the Warriors won Game 2:

JaVale McGee easily won the tip and Golden State took a quick 4-0 lead thanks to two dunks from their new starting center. The move away from Kevon Looney is working well so far.

The Warriors are getting to the basket very easily so far, with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant facing almost no resistance on layup attempts to go with JaVale McGee’s earlier dunks. Golden State’s first 10 points came in the paint which is a fairly different strategy, but they are playing to the defense. They changed it up on their sixth shot, with Klay Thompson pulling up from 3-point range and making it easily.

At the first timeout, Golden State is leading 15-6 and looking far more energetic than Cleveland on both ends of the court.

Marc Stein: Did someone trick the Warriors into thinking it’s the third quarter already? The hosts got to the rim so easily on their first five possessions; Cleveland looking very much like the league’s 29th-ranked defense early. Also: For all the grief JaVale McGee gets at his shakiest, his presence often (bizarrely) energizes the Warriors’ stars.

Coach Tyronn Lue showed good instincts with his timeouts in Game 1, with the Cavaliers often cutting off a potential run once they got back onto the court. They were clearly more competitive coming out of his first timeout tonight. George Hill hit a 3-pointer, LeBron James turned around a 3-point play and the Warriors actually missed a shot for the first time tonight. Even with the decent adjustments, Cleveland is trailing 19-14 with just over six minutes left in the first quarter.

J.R. Smith isn’t taking the bait from a crowd at Oracle Arena that has been mocking him all game. He hit a big 3-pointer on one end of the court and then got a steal on the other.

As of the Warriors’ first timeout with 4:34 left in the quarter, Cleveland trails 21-17 and is staying in this game even though Golden State is a ridiculous 10 of 12 from the field. If the Cavaliers can maintain this intensity when the Warriors start missing some shots, the score could turn around quickly.

Marc Stein: J.R. Smith’s short memory isn’t all bad. He clearly forgot the score at the worse possible time late in regulation in Game 1, but it has to help when it comes to coping with the aftereffect of that blunder. The crowd here at Oracle Arena gave Smith a standing ovation during introductions — and just serenaded him with an M.V.P. chant at the free-throw line — but Smith isn’t playing timid so far. He’s already gotten one 3 to go down.

As the buzzer rang ending the first quarter, the Warriors were leading the Cavaliers by a score of 32-28, with an offense that featured a lot more ball movement and a lot less dribbling than they have shown in recent games. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have 7 points each and Kevin Durant has 6, which thus far is enough to negate another strong effort by LeBron James, who has 10.

Golden State shot 15 of 23 for the quarter and more important, they were not nearly as beaten up on the boards, with 10 rebounds to Cleveland’s 8. It helps when you don’t miss your shots.

The fact that Cleveland is still fairly close considering all of that could portend a tightly-contested game the rest of the way. It feels like the rest of the Cavaliers are more involved than they were in Game 1, but that’s mostly a mirage. James has scored or assisted on 22 of Cleveland’s 28 points.

Marc Stein: Have to believe that the Cavaliers are thrilled to be trailing by a mere 4 points after a quarter when Golden State shot 15-for-23 from the field. LeBron is comfortably on a triple-double pace already. The King, giving us his best Scott Skiles, has 5 assists already.

The second quarter started with a Cleveland miss and a Kevin Durant make on a midrange jumper. While neither team looked nearly as smooth in the quarter’s first few minutes, a Klay Thompson 2-pointer with 9:12 left put Golden State up by 9 points. A timeout is an opportunity for Tyronn Lue to snuff out this 8-2 run, which Cleveland suddenly desperately needs.

Marc Stein: Hard to get too worked up about Kevin Durant’s two early fouls when he’s made his first five shots from the field and runs a fast break that leads to a Klay Thompson corner 2-pointer.

It took less than two minutes of game clock for Cleveland to get the lead back down 4 points, but a tough offensive rebound by David West helped set up a midrange jumper by Shaun Livingston, and then the veteran West had a huge block on defense which was followed by a Livingston layup. The old guys for Golden State are contributing a lot to this game.

After a Stephen Curry 3-pointer with 6:11 to play in the half, the Warriors were up to an 11-point lead and Tyronn Lue had to burn another timeout. It is not that Cleveland hasn’t been resilient tonight, and it’s not that they haven’t made solid adjustments, but the Warriors are rebounding better, shooting better and are having a much easier time than they did in Game 1.

JaVale McGee came back on the court and immediately made an impact with a hook shot for 2 points. A few possessions later, he had a huge dunk following a Cleveland turnover. The Warriors have their 2011 Wizards lineup on the court, with both McGee and Nick Young, but the entire team is attacking this game in a way they haven’t in quite some time and their ball movement has been better than it has at any point this off-season.

With just over three minutes remaining, the Warriors have a 13-point lead and the Cavaliers may be running out of adjustments, especially with LeBron James not finding it nearly as easy to score.

Marc Stein: We are a spoiled basketball public. LeBron James has 13 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists — and everyone in the building with a press pass is wondering: What’s wrong? Is it the eye? Is he gassed? Either alibi would be understandable, but don’t forget this one: He doesn’t have enough help!

At halftime, Golden State is leading 59-46. The key stats for the first half were the Warriors having 18 assists and 24 rebounds, looking much better on both offense and defense than they did in Game 1.

Draymond Green is playing remarkable defense regardless of his matchup, and the Big Three of Warriors scoring (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant) has combined for 39 points, with Curry having 16 points, 12 of which came off 3-pointers.

The decision to start JaVale McGee has paid off with 8 points, Shaun Livingston has 8 points off the bench and David West looks revitalized in his first chunk of action in quite some time.

That teamwide effort to fix the problems of Game 1 has made another terrific performance by LeBron James (15 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists) mostly irrelevant, though Cleveland has gotten a very good performance from George Hill, who is making up for his missed free-throw in Game 1 with 12 first-half points.

If Golden State has one of its signature third quarters locked and loaded, this could turn into a real blowout.

Marc Stein: Don’t sleep on the very savvy minutes that Golden State got in the first half from Shaun Livingston and David West. The Warriors, in general, are playing their kind of game with 18 assists on 25 made baskets. The hosts are just getting too many contributions from too many people for LeBron and Co. to keep up.

[What’s the secret to the Warriors’ third-quarter success? See what they told us by clicking here.]

The second half got underway with Tristan Thompson getting a layup almost immediately. Kevin Love, who had been off in the first half, hit a 3-pointer, and while Kevin Durant hit a pair of free-throws, a dunk by Thompson had Cleveland off to a 7-2 run to start the half.

Marc Stein: The Cavaliers have a 15-6 edge in free throw attempts and are trailing by 13 points entering Golden State’s beloved third quarter. I am not feeling optimistic about their comeback chances.

The Cavaliers have to be excited about Kevin Love’s two 3-pointers early in the half. George Hill hit another 3-pointer, but after yet another big dunk by JaVale McGee the Warriors lead is at 10. This definitely isn’t a vintage Warriors third quarter so far, but they are maintaining a solid lead even as Cleveland shows more energy.

The Cavaliers are not going away. A 3-pointer in transition by Klay Thompson got the home crowd fired up (and put the Warriors up by 11), but LeBron James answered with a 3-pointer of his own. Stephen Curry missed a corner-3 and Tristan Thompson dunked the ball home, forcing Golden State to take a timeout with their lead down to 6.

James is picking up the pace, with 20 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds, and even if Jeff Van Gundy is mocking the stats obsession in the N.B.A. on the ABC broadcast, the fact that James has been right in that range in nearly every finals game for the last two years — he averaged a triple-double for the entire finals last year — is remarkable.

Cleveland got Golden State’s lead all the way down to 5 points with a Kevin Love 3-pointer, but after a Jordan Bell free-throw it was back up to 8. Tyronn Lue picked up a technical after a non-call on what he thought was a foul of LeBron James by Stephen Curry (Curry gave James no place to land and James fell out of bounds). Curry sank the one shot afforded by that to stretch the lead to 9. The Cavaliers truly can’t catch a break in a game where they are doing everything they can to keep themselves in it.

There had been fear that even if Klay Thompson started that he would not be able to play much in Game 2 as he worked back from a high-ankle sprain and some serious bruising on his left leg, but he has played 26 minutes so far and is tied with Kevin Durant for a team-high 20 points.

But Thompson’s surge hasn’t been able to give his team any real breathing room thanks to Kevin Love having really picked things up (he’s up to 20 points on 14 field-goal attempts) and the Cavaliers getting solid scoring contributions from four players instead of just two.

Golden State’s rebounding advantage in the first half has evaporated. The Warriors will need to figure out what is going wrong in the quarter when they normally dominate. Their lead may still be at 8 points, but Cleveland seems to be getting stronger, at least for the time being.

Golden State’s ball movement of the first half largely disappeared late in the third quarter in favor of Kevin Durant isolation plays, but a driving Durant found a wide-open David West for a 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds remaining in the quarter, and the veteran connected, extending Golden State’s lead to 11. It was West’s first 3-pointer of the playoffs.

While the Cavs got a Kyle Korver free-throw courtesy of a bad foul by Jordan Bell which narrowed it to 10 points, they couldn’t capitalize on maintaining possession of the ball thanks to a hustle play by Bell.

A double-digit lead at home seems fairly safe for the Warriors, but they definitely lacked for intensity in the third quarter. With a tireless LeBron James sure to come at them with everything he has, this game isn’t over yet.

LeBron James got the scoring started in the fourth quarter with a wide-open 3-pointer, but Stephen Curry shook Larry Nance’s coverage and immediately answered with one of his own. Golden State got a stop and Curry hit a corner-3, pushing the lead to 13 points and forcing Tyronn Lue to take another timeout to try to slow down the two-time M.V.P. It is Curry getting loose that usually sets off the Warriors’ big third quarters, so if he is going to start doing that in the fourth, Lue needs to do anything he can to figure out a way to break the rhythm.

Marc Stein: Kevin Love and George Hill have been functional. LeBron has been LeBron James. But it’s going to take more than that in this building for the Cavaliers to win. Golden State has already succeeded in one of Steve Kerr’s main missions in this Game 2: making LeBron work harder for everything. You can see the toll it’s taking on him every time they show a shot of James on the bench.

Marc Stein: More problems for the visitors: LeBron James’ next second of rest in this game will be his first. He hasn’t missed a dribble of game action yet with 8:11 remaining in regulation. In related news: Cleveland was down to one timeout remaining with 10:11 to go in regulation. Expect a very weary LeBron James in his postgame news conference.

Stephen Curry hit a shot-clock-beating 28-footer to extend Golden State’s lead to 14 points, further pushing the momentum in the Warriors’ favor. With Cleveland having just one more timeout, there was nothing Ty Lue could do to slow things down.

The Warriors got yet another 3-pointer from Curry with 5:44 remaining, and he pushed the lead to 16 points after a free-throw earned thanks to a foul by Kevin Love on the shot attempt.

The Cavaliers called yet another timeout after Stephen Curry found Kevin Durant for a huge dunk which extended Golden State’s lead to 18 points. The game is effectively over with 5:15 left to play unless LeBron James can somehow find a gear that even he might not consider possible.

The Cavaliers largely gave up with 4:09 left in the game, sending in bench players like Cedi Osman, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood to see if any of them can get some confidence from a good stretch at the end of what has turned into a mild blowout. After 43 minutes, LeBron James is on the bench with 29 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds.

Marc Stein: Can’t argue with the Ty Lue’s decision to surrender with 4:09 to go and the Warriors up by 18. LeBron didn’t look thrilled with it as he exited the game, but it’s time to give the likes of Rodney Hood and Cedi Osman a taste of this series — and save LeBron from himself. He needs a rest.

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