The Golden State Warriors provided another balanced and dominant effort throughout their 110-77 blowout of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night from Oakland. Cleveland’s bench and supporting cast was better than in Game 1, but still managed to get outscored, 40-30, by the depth Golden State has in the rotation.
Game 2 started as the hotly contested matchup many of us expected, as the Cavaliers responded to their series opening loss with the type of energy and effort that actually led to as much as a six-point lead at one point early in the second quarter.
Draymond Green’s three-pointer (18 first-half points) gave the Warriors a 37-30 lead at the 7:28 mark of the second quarter, as Golden State used a 33-16 run to seize control of the game. Stephen Curry’s short jumper pushed Golden State’s lead to nine just a few possessions later. Curry and Klay Thompson then hit back-to-back three pointers around the three-minute mark to extend the lead to 48-35.
LeBron James, sensing the urgency of the moment, really went into attack mode down the stretch of the second in an effort to keep the Cavaliers within range. James scored eight points over the final five minutes of the quarter and pulled Cleveland to within a 52-44 deficit heading into the half.
Cleveland’s bench actually matched Golden State’s reserves in terms of first-half production in Game 2, but the Warriors’ defensive intensity helped limit Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith and James to a combined 10-31 from the field over the first two quarters. In fact, the streak-shooting Smith was just 2-8 from the field with just six points, two assists and a rebound through the first six quarters of the Finals.
The two teams exchanged a couple buckets over the first few minutes of the second half, but Curry’s fourth foul came at the 8:42 mark and left the Warriors in a bit of a predicament. Smith’s drive and finish cut the lead to seven, but Green’s fourth three-pointer of the game pushed the lead back to double-digits. Thompson’s three from the wing in transition was sandwiched by two Leandro Barbosa layups and Golden State was able to maintain control of the action even in Curry’s absence. Love missed the bulk of the second half due to concerns over a potential concussion as a result from a play toward the end of the second quarter. He was ruled out and will now enter the NBA’s concussion protocol.
James was called for traveling on consecutive plays around the five-minute mark, but then responded with one of his patented drives and finishes past the pressure of Iguodala. Richard Jefferson (12 points and five rebounds on the night) scored on a put-back with just over 3:15 left in the third and really seemed to provide some much-needed energy for the Cavaliers in Love’s absence.
Green’s find of a cutting Thompson for a conventional three-point play extended Golden State’s lead to 79-59. James was able to respond with a three of his own, but Thompson came right back with a long ball from the top of the arc and the Warriors went into the fourth quarter with an 82-62 lead.
Curry reintroduced himself to the action right at the start of the fourth with a 28-foot bomb to open the quarter’s scoring for either team. Barbosa’s back-to-back drives then extended the lead to 27 forcing the Cavaliers to call timeout to regroup less than two minutes into the quarter.
Barbosa is 10-12 from the field in the series for the Warriors. Andrew Bogut’s overall contributions may not always appear as obvious in the box score, but his defensive presence has been key in terms of limiting Cleveland’s effectiveness in the paint in this series. Bogut had five blocks in Game 2. The Warriors eventually took the game, 110-77, and now hold a 2-0 lead in a series where Curry has a total of 29 points. Green scored 28 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists in leading Golden State on the night.
James did have 19 points (7-17 from the field), nine assists and eight rebounds, but was never able to assert himself outside of a quick spurt to end the first half. His seven turnovers also led the Cavs. Irving simply hasn’t been effective in this series. He’s 12-36 from the floor (1-7 from deep) and has a total of just five assists and six rebounds in 71 minutes of action. J.R. Smith has just eight points on 3-9 from the floor so far in the series. Prior to these Finals, Smith had provided double-figure scoring in seven games during this playoff run.
The Warriors also won the rebound battle (46-34) and dished out more assists (26-15). The Cavaliers swiped 15 steals compared to just seven for the Warriors, but lost the war in the paint (50-40) and really struggled from the field (28-79, 35.4 percent) against a stingy Golden State defense.
Game 3 Prediction: The old, and often overused, adage of “it isn’t a series until a road team wins” may sound good when you’re facing an 0-2 deficit and heading home, but the Cavaliers now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to beat the Warriors four times over the next five games. Expect them to play like their season absolutely depends upon Game 3 – as it realistically does – and anticipate a herculean effort from James as the Cavs finally scratch in these Finals.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN