After a suspect first-half showing, the Golden State Warriors sprinted past the Cleveland Cavaliers down the stretch, securing a 118-108 win and regular-season sweep of their longtime rival.
On a night when Kevin Durant went for 32 points and Draymond Green nearly posted a triple double, here’s what you need to know …
LeBron James was rolling early but disappeared late. There was little James couldn’t do in the opening half. The Warriors’ Finals nemesis dropped 20 points in 19 minutes, hitting 8 of 10 shots from the field. James also grabbed five rebounds, dished three assists, totaled two steals and authored one trademark chase-down block, pinning a Durant layup attempt against the glass.
He looked like an unstoppable force, powering the hosts to a seven-point advantage at the break.
Save for another chase-down rejection — this one on Stephen Curry — the same game-wrecking version of James didn’t show up in the second half.
James scored 12 points in 17 second-half minutes, closing the night minus-14. He played tired, like a guy dragging the rest of the roster on his back. Isaiah Thomas was 8-for-21 from the field, Dwyane Wade, with an even 10, was the only Cavs’ reserve in double figures.
It’s never wise to count out James in January, but unless this team makes a splashy addition or does some serious gelling on defense, it’s not out of the question to think this was the last time the Warriors and Cavs will meet this year.
Klay Thompson had a weird night. Speaking of disappearing acts, where did Thompson go? After pouring in 13 points in the first quarter, the Splash Brother made just one bucket in the second and didn’t even attempt a field goal in the third.
The Warriors didn’t need Thompson’s scoring during the characteristic third-quarter burst against Cleveland — Durant scored 16 and Curry added 11. But Thompson’s ongoing habit of fading after fast starts is a puzzling storyline worth keeping track of.
Kevon Looney’s memorable road trip continues. Another night, another encouraging showing for Looney. The reserve big man played meaningful minutes for the third time in as many games. Looney and David West were the primary centers during the Warriors’ second-half burst. On the night, kooney played 12 minutes, scoring five and grabbing three rebounds. In 56 minutes on the trip, Looney has 19 points, 15 rebounds and is +17.
As mentioned, it’s yet to be decided whether the Warriors will see the Cavs again. But if they do, Looney and West are poised to make the most significant impact. Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee, who both drew DNPs, are non-factors in the small-ball rotation. Meanwhile, Jordan Bell, who started, only saw three second-half minutes after an uninspiring nine-minute stint to start the game.
Green owns the Cavs. Just like on Christmas Day, the Warriors’ defensive general and chief facilitator was in vintage for. Green scored 11 points, hauled in a season-high 16 boards, handed out nine assists and blocked two shots.
Here’s Green’s season averages against the Cavs: 11.5 points, 14.0 rebounds, 10.0 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals.