For the second year in a row, the Golden State Warriors have a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals. This time, though, they can’t let it slip away.
Indeed, the Warriors lost four of their final five Finals games last season, ultimately losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven.
Is last year’s meltdown a topic of conversation in Golden State? Particularly as it relates to this year’s series with the Cavs?
“There may be talk of it with peripheral people – the fans certainly, media people definitely – but they’re pretty quiet about it,” Warriors television and radio color analyst Jim Barnett said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They’ve got a quiet resolve within them, and it starts with Steph. I know that he is very bothered by last year. Draymond Green didn’t like getting suspended for Game 5, and so they don’t talk about it. Now maybe amongst themselves they might (talk about it) once in a while. I don’t know. They do not talk about it, but it’s there. They want to make amends for that. That’s why I don’t think Game 3 is going to be like last year.”
Last year, the Cavs lost Games 1 and 2 of the Finals by a combined 48 points, including Game 2 by 33 points. People thought the series was over.
Then the Cavs won Game 3, 120-90.
“That’s a 63-point turnaround,” Barnett said. “(The Warriors) lost by 30. Then they won Game 4 and came back home and lost three in a row. That didn’t sit well with them, and all summer long they had to swallow that.”
The Warriors hope to avoid that fate in 2017, this after winning Games 1 and 2 by a combined 41 points. Game 3 is Wednesday in Cleveland at 9 p.m. ET.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in Cleveland,” Barnett said. “No one knows that. You can speculate. I would say that definitely the Warriors are going to come back with a split. I think they’re that good. They’re not going to get beaten by 30. That’s just not going to happen. They’re too good at both ends of the floor.”
Especially in the second half. Golden State outscored Cleveland 53-39 over the final 24 minutes in Game 1 and 65-49 over the final 24 minutes in Game 2.
Kevin Durant scored a game-high 33 points in Game 2 on Sunday, while Steph Curry had 32 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. Both made four threes. So did Klay Thompson. As a team, the Warriors shot 18-of-43 (41.9 percent) from distance.
Cleveland? A paltry 8-of-29 (27.6 percent).
“One thing that the Cavs can do better is make more threes,” Barnett said, “but what if they had made five more threes (in Game 2)? Would it have been the difference? The Warriors (made) 18 threes tonight. I just don’t think (the Cavs) have enough firepower to match the offensive weaponry of the Warriors, and I know they don’t defensively match up. The Warriors had the second-best-rated defensive team in the league this year behind San Antonio. They led the league in shot blocks and they led the league in steals and that just fuels their offense. So I’m just not sure what the Cavs can do more that’s going to really get them over the top.”