War­riors ap­pear in­ca­pable of col­lapse

Higher mar­gin of vic­tory than 2016

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY BRIAN MA­HONEY

CLEVE­LAND | The pos­si­bil­i­ties seem end­less for the Golden State War­riors when they are rolling.

A 150-point game isn’t even out of reach.

“I mean, we could have got­ten at least 140 the other night if we only had about 10 to 15 turnovers,” All-Star guard Klay Thomp­son said.

Dom­i­nat­ing like no team ever has in the post­sea­son, the War­riors look ca­pa­ble of any­thing — ex­cept an­other NBA Fi­nals col­lapse.

They take a 2-0 lead over Cleve­land into Wed­nes­day’s Game 3, just as they did last year. The War­riors ac­tu­ally had a higher vic­tory mar­gin through two games in the 2016 Fi­nals, but they didn’t have Kevin Du­rant or a fully healthy Stephen Curry then.

They do now and are play­ing much bet­ter bas­ket­ball than this time last year.

“As a team, I think so,” Thomp­son said. “I think we’re mov­ing the ball great, we’re shoot­ing the ball at a high clip and our de­fense has been un­be­liev­able.”

Some­how, the Cava­liers have to change all that.

They did last year, com­ing home af­ter los­ing the first two by a com­bined 48 points and begin­ning the turn­around with a 120-90 rout in Game 3. The op­po­nent and the sit­u­a­tion are the same, yet things feel dif­fer­ent.

“That’s last year and I don’t even know the feel­ing any­more,” LeBron James said. “So I’m just men­tally strength­en­ing my mind and get­ting my mind ready and fo­cused on what to­mor­row’s go­ing to bring, and so I look for­ward to it.”

The War­riors com­mit­ted 20 turnovers in Game 2 but sim­ply shook that off with an NBA Fi­nals-record 18 3-point­ers in a 132-113 romp. It was the sec­ond time in the post­sea­son they com­mit­ted at least 20 turnovers, and yet they scored at least 120 points in both games.

They are av­er­ag­ing nearly 119 points and win­ning by a record 16.9 per game in the post­sea­son, and they’ve re­ally picked it up lately. Golden State has scored 126 per game on nearly 52 per­cent shoot­ing over the last five games.

“We played against good teams, and we came to the Fi­nals un­de­feated, and here we are up 2-0, so we’re play­ing amaz­ing bas­ket­ball right now. The best we prob­a­bly played through­out the year,” cen­ter Zaza Pachu­lia said.

With a loaded lineup and enough hot hands to fill an oc­to­pus, the War­riors don’t need to rely on any one player to take a lot of shots. If some­body is strug­gling, they can just find some­one else with their pre­ci­sion ball move­ment.

The Cava­liers don’t have that lux­ury. They need big nights from James, Kyrie Irv­ing and Kevin Love — and even then a ros­ter of strug­gling role play­ers has to pick it up.

“We just need our sup­port­ing group to be them­selves as much as pos­si­ble,” Irv­ing said. “Un­der­stand that they have a unique op­por­tu­nity to make us that much bet­ter, and for a ma­jor­ity of this sea­son it’s been on my­self, Bron and K-Love’s shoul­ders. And we have done a great job of get­ting ev­ery­one in­volved and mak­ing sure that ev­ery­one feels com­fort­able, but now we need ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­body.”

The Cava­liers said they won’t change their lineup or their schemes, in­sist­ing they want to play fast even though that’s ex­actly the way the War­riors like it. Golden State has been pun­ish­ing Cleve­land in tran­si­tion, and the way the War­riors have blown open the first two games by scor­ing in bunches hasn’t just taken a phys­i­cal toll.

Both Du­rant and Thomp­son said they no­ticed the men­tal ef­fect their light­ningquick scor­ing bursts have on op­po­nents.

“Teams have great nights in this league, and it’s the NBA, so that can hap­pen a lot,” Du­rant said. “But when you’re the one mak­ing the run, you could def­i­nitely feel the other team look­ing for an­swers and be­ing de­flated as the game goes on.”

A year af­ter win­ning 73 games to set the NBA’s reg­u­lar-sea­son record, the War­riors can make more his­tory if they sweep the Cavs to com­plete the league’s first un­de­feated post­sea­son.

They em­braced the chase last year but said Tues­day that they’re not think­ing at all about 16-0.

“Game 3 has been rough for us his­tor­i­cally, and espe­cially in this build­ing,” Curry said. “So to give our­selves a chance at even com­ing close to think­ing about that. We need to re­ally, re­ally just lock in and give ev­ery ef­fort we have on to­mor­row and how hard this 48 min­utes is go­ing to be to re­ally seize control of this se­ries.”

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