Curry buries remnants of rivalry
Golden State star dominates in lopsided triumph over outclassed Cavaliers
CLEVELAND — Their fierce rivalry is over, reduced to only memories.
The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers had something special, four straight NBA Finals that Steph Curry will one day savor. Some day.
“It was historic,” Curry said. “I’ll definitely sit back on the couch in 10 or 12 years when it’s all over and think about what it was like to play here, and how high the stakes were every time we came into this building.”
Right now, Curry and the Warriors aren’t ready to reminisce.
Curry made nine 3-pointers and scored 42 points, Kevin Durant added 25 as Golden State returned to face a very different Cleveland team for the first time since winning another NBA title, whipping the Cavs 129-105 on Wednesday night.
Fully healed after missing 11 games with a strained groin, Curry scored nine points in less than a minute midway through the fourth quarter to help the Warriors pull away for their eighth straight win over their former Finals rivals.
Curry added nine rebounds and seven assists, and Durant had 10 rebounds and nine assists.
It was Golden State’s first visit to Cleveland since June, when the Warriors completed a sweep to win their third championship in four years.
Nothing in Quicken Loans Arena felt or looked the same.
“There were more media members here the last couple of years. We were talking about that before we ran out on the floor,” said Durant.
“It was a circus here during the Finals. You start thinking about the great memories you had, especially the championship.
“I’m sure we’ll feel those feelings every time we walk into the building.”
This was the first matchup between the Warriors and Cavaliers since LeBron James left as a free agent last summer, eventually signing with the LA Lakers.
The Cavs are starting from scratch after a four-year run as Eastern Conference champions, and they’re struggling without All-Star Kevin Love, who is recovering from foot surgery. Forward JR Smith is out of the lineup on a forced hiatus.
There are no playoff plans in Cleveland, where fans are more interested in watching Duke University games than what the Cavs are doing.
Tristan Thompson, one of the only holdovers from those powerful Cavs teams, had 19 rebounds and 14 points. Rookie Collin Sexton scored 20 points for Cleveland.
For Warriors coach Steve Kerr, the Golden State-Cleveland Finals, a four-act play loaded with drama and intensity, had it all.
“Some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen in my life,” Kerr said before the game.
“Obviously, they have a new team and so you move on. But part of me is a little nostalgic for that.
“Now it’s not a rivalry, it’s another game. They’re trying to build something and we’re trying to continue our run for as long as we can.”
The Warriors had trouble shaking the Cavs until Curry took control.
Golden State’s lead was just 10 when he got fouled while hitting a 3-pointer and completed the fourpoint play.
He then buried another 3 and followed that with two free throws to put the Warriors ahead 116-99 with 5:34 left.
Kerr isn’t surprised Curry is back to being himself.
“It’s pretty rare, but Steph is rare in general in everything he does,” he said.
“We’ve seen it before where Steph was out with an injury and comes back and starts lighting it up right away.
“The guy keeps himself in amazing shape, which allows him to come back pretty quickly from an injury.”
Warriors: Kerr said Draymond Green (sprained toe) could return as early as Monday when Golden State hosts Minnesota. Green has gradually increased his on-court work of late and Kerr said “he’s really making strides”.
Cavaliers: Thompson, too, said the Warriors-Cavaliers rivalry is officially over. “It’s in the past. New season. New team. Our ball club is different and they’ve made some changes, but predominantly the same. That’s all the last four years,” Thompson said.
“That was great for the NBA. Now we’re in a new chapter for our organization.”
Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers' Jordan Clarkson in the second half of Wednesday’s NBA game in Cleveland. Curry had 42 points to lead the Warriors to a 129-105 victory.