For three quarters on Wednesday night, the Cavaliers hung with the Warriors. They even led for stretches of the game and at half time. All in all, it was much better than the Cavs could have expected.
And then the fourth quarter happened and the Warriors were the Warriors, outscoring the Cavs 34-19 in the fourth and 71-41 in the second half overall. Final score: Golden State 129, Cavs 105.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry led all scorers with 42 points, paced by a 9-14 night on three-pointers. Kevin Durant chipped in 25 points for good measure. Collin Sexton led the Cavs with 21 points, and Jordan Clarkson and Cedi Osman added 17 points and 16 points respectively.
Cleveland and Golden State exist in different worlds. The former is well on its way to a top-five pick in the draft; the latter is the odds-on favorite to win another title this year and cement its place as one the best teams ever. And this game was not the same type of matchup the Cavs and Warriors had in the last four NBA Finals due to a certain player playing on a different coast. On paper, that meant that the Cavs would have some real issues this year.
But for a part of this game, it didn’t matter. Rodney Hood came out firing, scoring 11 first quarter points. Cleveland held a double-digit lead early. Riding a 10-20 mark on three-pointers in the first half, the Cavs’ efforts crescendoed into a six-point half time lead when Hood volleyed in a shot after Clarkson had to pass the ball at the last second. There was no way the Cavs could have played a better half.
And then it just went as expected. Curry came out firing in the second half. Durant too. And the Cavs’ shots just stopped falling. As a team, they shot 1-12 from behind the arc in the second half. Curry beat that number by himself.
A loss isn’t the worst thing for the Cavs — securing that top-five pick will mean more long term than winning this game — but for a night, they had a reminder (or, in Sexton’s case, an introduction) of what a game against the Warriors used to be like. Or, at least a version of it. And then reality set it and the Warriors rolled.
Cleveland next plays on Friday at home against a surprisingly good Kings team. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.