On Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena, the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Golden State Warriors in a matchup of two of the league’s favorites to make it to the NBA Finals.
After the Warriors got the best of the Cavaliers the first time around in January, LeBron James and his teammates got some revenge on their home court. The final score read 110-99, but the game seemed as if it was much further apart than that.
James looked like a man possessed, scoring 42 points, notching 11 rebounds and dishing out five assists. Boasting a performance of 15-of-25 from the field, James was able to play only 36 minutes while nursing what appeared to be a sore back in what will be regarded as a major win for the Cavaliers.
Not only did the team get a win over the best team in the league, but their defense was able to hold Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to just 31 points. Going a combined 10-of-30 from the floor this time around, the activity of the Cavaliers wing defenders certainly got to the Splash Brothers in this matchup.
Though he logged no points, Iman Shumpert’s activity in 31 minutes was key to disrupting Curry and Thompson. His ability to guard multiple positions was on display all evening, as he showed off his quickness while switching from player to player on defense.
Another player mentioned specifically by head coach, David Blatt, after the game was none other than J.R. Smith. Despite scoring just four points on 1-of-5 shooting, Smith was extremely active on both ends of the court in 36 minutes. The former New York Knick logged four rebounds, five assists and four steals in what was his best defensive effort as a Cavalier. His steals led to fastbreak points for the Cavaliers, which quickly shifted the momentum to the home team.
The performances of Shumpert and Smith were specifically pointed out by James in the postgame interview as he stated…
“Spectcaular. 10 for 30, you know they held the Splash Brothers man, that’s not an easy cover. The motor that those two guys (Curry and Thompson) play with, there’s not many like that in our league. And they have two on the same team, and them New York boys (Shumpert and Smith) did they job tonight. And taking a challenge, they did from the beginning all the way to the end. It’s not an easy task, and I give them a lot of respect and props for that.”
Lost in the defensive effort and the star power of James was another dazzling performance from Kyrie Irving. Irving scored 24 points on 6-of-17 from the floor, coming up big with a 10-of-10 performance from the free throw line. Though it wasn’t a stellar shooting performance, Irving’s aggressiveness—including his 10th dunk of his career—kept the Cavaliers in control all night long.
While many—including this writer—dubbed this game as another drop in the regular season water, James and the Cavaliers sent a major message to the NBA tonight. With Timofey Mozgov recording a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds), and Kevin Love (16 points and eight rebounds) contributing in their roles, the Wine and Gold (well Navy for tonight) looked pretty unbeatable when clicking on all cylinders.
As the Cavaliers move on, the team hits the road to take on the Indiana Pacers tomorrow night. With the Pacers coming off a loss to the Oklahoma City on Thunder night and the Cavaliers exerting a lot of energy against the Warriors, do not be surprised if this game is a little closer than most would like early on—with the Cavaliers finally pulling away for good late in the third quarter.