Ten lingering thoughts: Game 2 of the 2018 NBA Finals

NBA.com Global on Jun 04, 2018 02:10 PM
Ten lingering thoughts: Game 2 of the 2018 NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A few thoughts from Oracle Arena at Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

10 — Superhuman LeBron James had a chance to make this a real series. Mere mortal LeBron, the guy we saw Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) in Game 2, has to worry about a sweep. The Warriors neutralized him without their best LeBron defender, Andre Iguodala, who could make his debut in this series in Game 3 Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) in Cleveland after missing the Warriors’ last six games with a knee injury. That’s two full weeks away from the action for the 2015 Finals MVP, who earned his hardware in large part because of the work he did defending LeBron in that series.

9 — Warriors coach Steve Kerr gets the nod for the most significant tweak from Game 1 to 2 after starting JaVale McGee instead of Kevon Looney. The difference in rim rolling and rim running early was clear. McGee’s size and activity in the opening minutes didn’t allow the Cavaliers to get into a comfort zone and limited the opportunities for LeBron to attack the basket the way he did early and often in Game 1. McGee scored the first four points of the game, setting the tone from the start for the Warriors.

8 — J.R. Smith might as well have worn a Warriors uniform the way the Oracle Arena crowd treated the Game 1 scapegoat Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). All of the Cavaliers were booed during the playing introductions, while Smith was cheered like a two-time Kia MVP. He even received “M-V-P” chants from the crowd at the free throw line in the first quarter. The outcome of this one was never really in doubt, so he didn’t have to worry about remembering the score during crunch time, since Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue emptied his bench with more than four minutes to play. Smith never got a chance to make up for his Game 1 gaffe.

7 — When you possess the offensive firepower the Warriors do in Kia MVPs Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, it’s easy to forget that the most dangerous catch-and-shoot artist on the team could very well be All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson. Instead of waiting until the ball found him, the other Splash Brother took matter into his own hands midway through the third quarter he scooped up a loose ball and nailed a transition three-pointer for a 72-61 Warriors lead to jumpstart the offense after halftime.

6 — Kevin Love’s been extremely aggressive offensively through the first two games of this series, taking 38 shots combined (16 three-pointers). Aggression doesn’t always translate to success. Love has made just four of his shots from distance, he was 3-for-8 Sunday (Monday, PHL time), and simply hasn’t been the No. 2 threat the Cavaliers need him to be to top the Warriors. He’s shown no lingering effects from his time in the league’s concussion protocol from the conference finals but has yet to regain his shooting stroke, particularly from long range. His back-to-back 20-10 games have come in vain.

5 — LeBron’s still climbing the charts for playoff points scored with every outing. He passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Sunday (Monday, PHL time) for second place on the all-time Finals scoring list. He’s now at 1,327, 10 more than Kareem, and trails only Jerry West (1,679). He’s going to make these G.O.A.T. debates very difficult as the points continue to pile up.

4 — The Warriors’ supporting cast has been critical in this series so far, no one more than Shaun Livingston. He was 4-4 from the floor in the first half, finishing with eight points, three rebounds and an assist in nine crucial minutes off the bench. Without Iguodala available, it was Livingston who finished the overtime period with the four All-Stars in Game 1. His versatility and ball-handling make him an ideal fit in those situations, even he doesn’t stretch the floor as a shooter. It’s easy to forget just how good a prospect he was earlier in his career; he was the Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard of the future before a horrific knee injury altered the trajectory of his career. Now he’s become one of the league’s great role players and a two-time NBA champion here with the Warriors.

3 — The Warriors’ magic number this postseason is 25, as in assists. They get 25 or more and they are a perfect 12-0. That should make for an easy talking point during film study for Kerr and his staff. Move the ball and the results will come.

2 — It sure looked like all of these playoff minutes started to catch up to LeBron in Game 2 (he played 44 in Game 2 after logging 48 in the overtime loss in Game 1). The days between games couldn’t come at a better time for Mr. 82 Games (for the first time in the regular season in his career). The Cavaliers need to find some time for his to shut it down between now and Thursday night, because Game 3 is a must-win for the Cavaliers if they want to make it back here to the Bay Area for a Game 5.

1 — Need another reminder that Thompson is the Warriors’ unsung hero during this current dynasty in the making? He’s played in all 100 postseason games they’ve played since 2013, setting the franchise-record for playoff games played during this stretch.

Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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