Poor starts to both halves doomed the Cleveland Cavaliers as they once again fell to the Golden State Warriors 120-114.
This was a wasted opportunity.
The Cavs have had a rough go of it as of late while seemingly everyone else at the top of the East can’t stop winning. A back-to-back against the two most recent champions after six of seven road games didn’t seem like an opportunity to get back on track. But, the Warriors decided to do the Cavs a favor.
Golden State rested their core three of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green while also giving James Wiseman the night off. They had been struggling recently as well. This was the perfect get-right game.
Unfortunately for the Cavs, they didn’t get the memo that they needed to come out with some level of urgency to put away the second-stringers. They fell behind early before storming back to make it a four-point game in the fourth. But, as they found out recently against the Memphis Grizzlies, you can’t just fall behind by 20 and expect to come back against experienced teams.
Opponent’s continue to hit their outside shots.
Can something be unsustainable if it continues to happen without end? By definition, no. But you would think opponents would eventually stop hitting an unreasonably high percentage from deep.
Coming into tonight, the opposition has hit 40.6% of their threes against the Cavs in their last 15 games. That number will likely go up as Golden State connected on 23 of their 43 looks from beyond the arc to shoot 53.5% from distance.
Opponent three-point shooting is a nuanced conversation. Some of it come down to luck. Especially during a one-game sample.
That said, the Cavs did not come out with any level of intensity to start this game. Especially on the defensive end of the floor. They allowed the Warriors to get into an early rhythm from deep as they didn’t rotate out to shooters, the bigs dropped on screens and they didn’t have good contests when they were somewhat in position. By the time they picked up the intensity, it was too late.
The math doesn’t add up.
The Cavs aren’t a team that takes many threes as they rank 22nd in attempts. Not having Donovan Mitchell, who puts up 9.4 a game, really hurts.
The Cavs had a solid shooting night by their standards as they went 14-33 (42.4%) from distance. Although, hitting 14 threes when your opponent hits nine more doesn’t do a whole lot. Hardly any team is good enough to overcome a 27-point disparity.
While the Cavs ran into the wrong team at the wrong time, it does underline a fundamental problem they have which shows up against elite competition. A quick look at the stats will show you that the teams who take and hit the most threes are generally those at the top of the standings while the ones that don’t are at the bottom.
Cleveland will always be at a disadvantage here with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley on the floor. That’s okay. They provide so much value in other areas that it can work most nights. For it to work though, they need the other three guys on the court to be able to make up for it. They aren’t right now which is hurting them.
As currently constructed, this team is fundamentally flawed and too reliant on two players for their outside shooting.
We’re still paying for our 3-1 jokes.
The Warriors have now swept the Cavaliers in six straight regular seasons. Since the 2016 championship, the Cavs are 1-12 in the regular season and 2-20 overall against Golden State. The Warriors have been an average of 12.9 points better per contest in those 22 games.
We wouldn’t trade the championship — or all the fun we had at the Warriors’ expense — for anything. But, it would be nice to not be run out of the gym once or twice.
The Cavs didn’t use their height advantage.
The Warriors are a small team. We saw the Cavs’ bigs take advantage of that in their first matchup in November. Cleveland, specifically Jarrett Allen, wasn’t able to do that here tonight.
Allen had a rough go of it to put it lightly. He finished with only 8 points on 4-7 shooting with 8 rebounds and 3 fouls in 31 minutes of play while being a -13. He uncharacteristically had a tough time sustaining anything inside as he only scored 2 points in his last three quarters of play.
The Cavs also couldn’t control the defensive glass as the Warriors collected 37.8% of their misses which led to 14 offensive boards and 10 second-chance points. Three-point misses can lead to more offensive rebounds as the ball tends to bounce further away from the basket, but the Cavs still needed to do a better job inside to win.
The Cavs and Warriors are two completely different stylistic teams. The Warriors did what they do best very well while the Cavs simply didn’t.
Darius Garland was the lone bright spot.
While there were a lot of things to complain about in this one, Garland wasn’t one of them. He continued his string of good play as he produced 31 points on 10-25 shooting with 10 assists and 2 steals. The shooting percentage from distance wasn’t great (3-11), he was the only reliable source of offense and playmaking on a day the Cavs desperately needed it.
For this team to be their best, they need the guards to be on top of their game. Garland’s play has been up-and-down at times this season, but he’s been hitting his stride in his last few games. The Cavs will need to keep getting performances like this from him to stay competitive as long as Mitchell is out of the lineup.
Up next: The good news is the Cavs don’t have to wait long to rinse this sour taste of their mouth. The bad news is, the Milwaukee Bucks are coming to town and haven’t played since Tuesday. Saturday’s tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.