When the Cavs lose, they usually look good for about a quarter, then get the crap kicked out of them for a quarter or two, putting the game out of reach. So, when they played the Warriors tonight in Golden State, imagine our surprise when the Cavs pulled that trick on the Warriors, winning 103-94. The Warriors dominated early, but the Cavs used a second quarter surge to transform the game from another hapless blowout to a dominant victory over a playoff team. The Cavs outscored the Dubs 36-21 in the second quarter and 32-18 in the third, and ruined Stephen Curry’s birthday game with dominant defense and some Dion Waiters and Spencer Hawes explosiveness.
Saying the Cavs got destroyed early would be unfair to what actually happened. The Warriors shot 52 percent in the first quarter, and led by a score of 20-4 halfway through the period. 20-4. The Warriors were getting out in transition, capitalizing on Hawes missing several early shots, and preying on the Cavs playing with their signature road game malaise. Mike Brown had to burn two early timeouts, and the team just looked awful. This looked cooked early, and even as the Cavs battled back from this hilarious early slump, Jordan Crawford switched on the improbability drive and hit two ridiculous shots to make it 32-16 after one.
Once that was over, however, the Cavs’ defense flipped a switch. The Warriors’ offense has been a little sluggish this season, and the Cavs took advantage of that, turning in a 13-0 run through the first part of the second quarter. Dion Waiters led the charge, and it appeared he made it his personal mission to abuse Harrison Barnes on both ends. He had 12 in the second quarter, and capped off the huge run with an 18-footer off a Tyler Zeller screen (where Zeller crushed Barnes), and then hitting a transition three to force a Warriors momentum timeout at the score of 41-38, Cavs. Started the game down 20-4. Then went on a 37-18 run. Beautiful. The Warriors were able to cling to a halftime lead, but being in the game was an accomplishment in and of itself.
In the third, the Warriors fought back early with some Stephen Curry threes and David Lee buckets to attempt to get a commanding lead back. However, the Cavs wouldn’t let them. The third quarter was Luol Deng’s turn to heat up, and he did in a huge way, scoring seven of his 16 in the third to help the Cavs not only keep up, but take control of the game. The Cavs continued to play with great defensive energy, as Kyrie and Jarrett Jack both took charges, Anderson Varejao played with great energy, and David Lee, who had 13 in the first half, went ice cold thanks to Hawes and Varejao’s defense. Kyrie, who had just three points in the first half, also hit two threes to put the Cavs up 13 headed into the final stanza. Once in the fourth quarter, the Cavs got more great defensive play, and Dion Waiters, who finished with 18 points, took over, hitting big shot after big shot to put the game out of reach. The dagger, though, came from Kyrie, who hit a big three with about 5 minutes left to put the game out of reach for the Warriors.
Now, two straight wins in a row over Western Conference playoff contenders is quite significant. Many thought this was going to be an impossible March for the Cavs to traverse in order to get to the playoffs. However, beating the Warriors and Suns on the road is a huge deal. Particularly, though, the way they Cavs did this was huge. The Cavs have gotten consistent offensive production from their entire team in these two games, and adding strong defensive game tonight was promising. The Cavs still need to work on becoming consistent, but this is a great start heading into next week’s Clippers/Heat/Thunder/Rockets gauntlet. If they can win just one of those four games, and beat the Knicks in two weeks, we’ll have a chance. Which seemed impossible even on Wednesday morning. I don’t get this team at all.
Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers