Christian Fuentes, Sports Journalist for Metro Puerto Rico
I might as well just copy and paste any thoughts I had last year and add on “Kevin Durant” here and there. Like 2016, the Golden State Warriors rolled through the Cleveland Cavaliers after two games and have, of course, the 2-0 series lead going into the Q on Wednesday. This time around, they have an all-world looking Kevin Durant, eager to prove he can perform on the big stage and he has not disappointed. Many observations are to be made, apart from the final score, so let’see what we can come up with. Shall we?
While we’re on the subject of Durant, we all pretty much expected him to have a superb series. But let’s give honor to the truth here: We didn’t expect him to have THIS type of series. A Game 1 with 38 points and a Game 2 with 33. And it’s not just the scoring with him. He has rebounded and defended beautifully. It’s as focused and as locked in as we’ve seen him during the 10 seasons he’s been in the NBA (Wow, has it been that long already? I remember saying Portland should have taken him first overall. We’ll leave that for later). Back to the scoring: It’s not just the fact that he’s making shots; it’s the way he’s gone about it. KD seems more aggressive, assertive, more “taking things” instead of “waiting for them”. I’m sure he’s heard all the chatter about having already lost a Finals to LeBron and how he’s always been second to LeBron. I am one of those who’ve expressed in the past that LeBron james is Durant’s Kryptonite. It doesn’t look like that after two games.
Another point I want to bring up in favor of the Warriors: Stephen Curry. I, as well as many of the pundits who cover the day to day sports, have said that in order for Golden State to reclaim the title, Curry has to be MVP Curry and not Finals Curry. After two games, he is averaging 30.0 points per game and is looking the best he’s had in the now three NBA Finals he’s played at. He needs to cut down on the turnovers and maybe on one or two of those crazy shots. But like Durant, he’s playing loose and assertive, unlike the last two Finals. The thing is that their teaming up somehow takes pressure of both of them. Also, let’s not forget Klay Thompson and the defensive lesson he’s giving us all. He broke out for 22 in Game 2, but it’s his defense that’s been vital.
As for the Cavaliers, the start of Game 2, all the way into the the end of the 3rd quarter looked promising for them. LeBron was stacking the stat sheet and attacking the basket at will. He was getting some help after a terrific game from Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. James seemed to run out of gas in the early moments of the 4th (Which is ironic, considering all the nights he took off to rest during the regular season for this particular moment). Of course, thus began the “LeBron has no help” chatter. He does. They’re just not producing and could break out anytime. This is where one has to give credit to the Warriors defense, which has stifled the Cavs in key moments. I wouldn’t be surprised if home cooking gets J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Tristan Thompson, Deron Williams, and other going.
While the Warriors are just absolutely dominating, I’d be pretty naive to say it’s over. We could easily be 2-2, once this first tour of Cleveland is done.
Darío Vázquez, Resident Sports Expert
Two games into the NBA Finals and it seems like Golden State Warriors are unbeatable. Yes, last year they were up 2-0 and ended up losing in seven games after blowing a 3-1 lead but there is a huge difference between last year and this one: Kevin Durant. We all know Kevin Durant is an all-time great talent and that he has the most pressure to perform out of all the players in the Finals, but did we really expect him to be the best player on both ends of the floor?
Durant has neutralized everything LeBron James has done for the Cleveland Cavaliers on the floor. Playing more efficient basketball while posting similar numbers. While I’m not surprised Durant is scoring in bunches (after all he has never scored less than 25 points in a finals game), I’m surprised LeBron has not been able to make him work hard for his points. As talented as Durant is, LeBron is bigger and stronger than the maybe slightly quicker at this point Durant. LeBron has to make him work hard to score like Andre Iguodala did to him en route to a NBA Finals MVP award two years ago. Yes, LeBron averaged 35.8 points back then but he did so shooting 39% from the field, a ridiculously low number by his standards. This brings us to the following question, does LeBron has enough in his tank to play at a high level on both ends of the floor? From what we have seen on the first two games and specially last night, the answer is no. By the end of the game, he looked tired and struggling to catch his breath. On the other end, Durant has been able to do that for the Warriors as evidenced by his 5 blocks and 3 steals in Game 2. If Durant continues to outplay LeBron on both ends of the floor, this series will be over sooner rather than later, but if we have learned something is that we shouldn’t count LeBron out until the very end.
Moving on to the other elite match-up we have Stephen Curry against Kyrie Irving. If we made a poll right before the finals started about who would come up bigger on the grand stage, I’m pretty sure Kyrie would earn most of the votes. Fast forward two games and Stephen Curry is the one looking like the two time reigning MVP he is. He has outscored everybody but Durant, and he is outrebounding Tristan Thompson. Like I mentioned on my last post, I expected a healthy and with something to prove Curry to show up but to average 30 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists so far? I’m pretty sure nobody saw that coming. On the other hand, Kyrie has looked like Curry on the past two finals, averaging a quiet 21 points so far while shooting 40% from the field. We know he is talented and proud enough to have huge games before the series end and the Cavs better hope it happens as soon as next game. Kyrie and Curry are not matched up against each other defensively most of the time as both teams prefer to use better defenders on each point guard but they can both apply pressure on each other by how they perform on offense and so far it’s Curry that has been slicing through the defense and knocking down bombs from 30 feet without an answer from his opponent.
The reason I pointed out the previous two match-ups is because I believe in order for Cleveland to have a chance to win this series both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving need to have the upper hand against their counterparts. The Warriors have a better team plain and simple and if both Curry and Durant outplay them, then the Cavs have no chance. Give the Warriors defense a lot of credit for neutralizing the Cavs shooters and keeping them away from what they do best which is the drive and kick out to the open sniper. I expect the Cavs role players to perform much better at home and bring a spark to their offense but the fact of the matter is the Warriors have a better all around supporting cast and the Cavs have mostly shooters.
This series is far from over and the Cavs can easily return to Oracle Arena tied but a lot has to change on their camp in order to claw themselves back on it. They need to slow the tempo, take smart shots and protect the basketball in order to prevent the Warriors from running and gunning them out of the game. If it was simple, the Warriors would have lost a game or two already but if there is a team capable of doing so it’s the Cavs. If you ask me, I say chances are the Warriors will continue to create chaos on defense and score in bunches for two more wins before the Cavs figure out a way to slow them down completely.