OAKLAND — LeBron James played his role to perfection when he saw Draymond Green approaching in an obvious foul situation during the second quarter.
The reigning Finals MVP played up a stiff blow by hitting the floor hard and laying there for an extended moment. As is tradition, James received an advantageous ruling after a review found Green committed a flagrant foul.
But this time, it didn’t carry the desired effect of derailing the Golden State Warriors.
In fact, the Dubs only got stronger from that point, completing a 126-91 blowout win over the defending champions.
It’s the kind of result that fans love to turn into something bigger: Losing four-straight games to your rival — including three in the NBA Finals — will do that.
And the Warriors obviously really wanted this one: Falling in consecutive games despite leads in the fourth quarter tends to have that effect.
“After the Christmas Day game, I’m pretty sure in everybody’s mind was tonight’s game,” explained Zaza Pachulia, who grabbed 13 rebounds in 21 minutes. “… It was so obvious, you could tell from the energy from the beginning from the tip off it was crazy.”
All of that is nice. It’s great the players were able to shake the mental burden of repeatedly losing to their rival — a term James shied away from, but Green embraced. But the bigger takeaway from Golden State’s tour de force was that the Warriors were able to put together their best performance in weeks against the stiffest competition.
It was a true team effort. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant all scored at least 20 points for the 14th time this season. Green logged his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
That was all somewhat expected.
The real difference on this night was Andre Iguodala, who took advantage of the three consecutive days off and played his most complete game of the season. He finished at the rim and from deep, shooting a perfect 5-for-5 for 14 points with five assists and three rebounds.
As impressive of a win that it was, it’s important to keep it in context.
Pros: The veterans showed they have juice in their legs and are eager to rise for bigger games; the Cavs are going to have problems guarding the Warriors, especially with Kyle Korver on the floor; Green can overcome mental slips.
Cons: James can still coax blow ups from Golden State’s most important player; it was a regular-season victory.
“We beat them twice last year in the regular season, and you know what the story is,” Thompson pointed out.
What’s the most important take away from the Warriors’ 35th win at the midpoint of the season? Steve Kerr explained it best.
“What happens in January generally doesn’t affect what’s happening later on. That was proven last year, and is probably proven most years,” he said. “The main thing is it’s a good win against a great team, and we’re halfway through and in a good spot.”
Contact Jacob C. Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.