OAKLAND — How do you stop LeBron James, the unstoppable force of the NBA?
The Golden State Warriors showed in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday that you don’t. But you can outscore his Cleveland Cavaliers.
James had a typically gaudy stat line (29 points on 18 shots, 11 rebounds, 14 assists) in the 132-113 Dubs win. He attacked early — not attempting a shot deeper than 12 feet until 6:48 in the third quarter — and it was effective.
The former MVP’s runaway-train routine isn’t stopped easily by anyone on earth, and it showed early. But then something almost as predictable happened: The Warriors offense tightened up after halftime, stopped making the turnovers that allowed James to build a full head of steam, and buried the Cavs.
Sometimes a great offense is the best defense.
“That’s been the focus the last two days is can we repeat the formula. The answer was no. We did not repeat it,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr explained. “Tonight was a game based on talent.”
There’s really no hope in completely containing James, who tied Magic Johnson with his eighth postseason triple-double. But Golden State found success limiting the Cavs in other ways, like holding Cleveland to 8-for-29 from beyond the 3-point arc.
And then there was the individual performance by Kevin Durant, who managed to have a huge impact on both ends of the floor. The number of players in league history who can score 33 points while being James’ primary defender — as Durant was for most of Game 2, logging five blocks and three steals — can be counted on one hand.
KD has always been famous for his unique scoring ability, but he’s been picking up tricks on how to grow as a defender from Draymond Green.
“He’s so good at just sniffing out plays before they happen,” Durant said. “And so I just tried to follow his lead with that, and I learned so much from him throughout the season.”
On one stretch, Durant swatted an attempt by Kevin Love at the rim, raced down the floor and scored a runner despite contact.
Green, the presumed Defensive Player of the Year who was limited by foul trouble, jumped off his seat and was at midcourt cheering on his teammate and friend even before Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue called a timeout.
“That was a man play,” Green said.
(Green was asked if he employed his characteristic flexing celebration to transfer his power to Durant: “I don’t really know if I could put this power in these arms, though,” Green said squeezing his scrawny teammate.)
But, the Warriors weren’t perfect. They committed 20 turnovers at home and may not get away with those kind of mistakes on the road, especially if James continues to perform like the best player of all time.
“We’re going to have to be a lot smarter,” Kerr said. “We play that same game in Cleveland, there’s no way we win.”
— Tristan Thompson has eight rebounds through two games.
— Kyrie Irving shot 8-for-23 from the field.
— Stephen Curry committed eight turnovers in addition to logging his first triple-double in the postseason.