That was not expected. At all. After jumping out to a 70-44 halftime lead, the Golden State Warriors coasted to an easy 132-98 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. The defending champs moved to 2-0 against their vanquished NBA Finals counterpart this season by handing the Cavaliers an embarrassing home loss.
Stephen Curry led the way with 35 points -- and he didn't even play in the fourth quarter -- on a night when the Cavaliers had absolutely no answer for anything the Warriors threw at them. Cleveland was hapless on both sides of the ball, lacking effort or cohesiveness from the opening tip.
The Warriors jumped out to a 12-2 lead to start and didn't slow down. The Cleveland defense was lost throughout the first quarter, chasing the Warriors around the court as Golden State took a 34-21 lead. It only got worse in the second quarter for Cleveland as the Warriors piled point after point onto their lead, scoring at will against a lazy Cavaliers defense.
They took a 70-44 lead into the second half behind 21 points from Curry on 8-of-10 shooting. The Warriors shot 65 percent from the field and 59 percent from behind the three-point line in the first half. The Cavaliers were lackadaisical on both sides of the ball, but especially on defense. They had six turnovers in the first half and the Warriors had 12 fastbreak points, nearly matching the 14 they had in the entire game on Christmas.
Everything was coming up Warriors in the first half.
The night never improved for the Cavaliers. There was no slowing down the machine that is the Warriors' offense. They built up a lead as big as 43 and coasted and coasted and coasted on their way to a 34-point win.
Here are three things we learned.
1. Good luck if the Warriors play like this
In the Christmas Day game the Warriors put up 28 points in the first quarter, but the Cavaliers clamped down in the second quarter and held the Warriors to 89 points. The Warriors put up 70 in the first half on Monday. They controlled the game from the get go and never let up. Sure they shot lights out in the first half, but that was because they were getting open looks and making their way to the rim at will while forcing turnovers on defense. Draymond Green had 16 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds -- like every other Warriors player, he sliced through the Cavaliers' defense with ease.
The Warriors dished out 33 assists as a team, moving the ball to find the open spot time and time again. It's been said over and over, but when the Warriors are clicking they're unstoppable.
2. The Cavaliers can't keep up -- especially if they're not playing defense
The Cavaliers have had success against the Warriors by slowing things down and forcing them to play slow, gritty basketball. That wasn't the case on Monday because the Cavaliers weren't playing defense. After giving up 34 points in the first quarter, it seemed like they would clamp down -- they didn't. After giving up 70 points in the first half, it seemed like they would clamp down again -- they didn't. The Cavaliers were doing nothing to stop the Warriors all night. It's hard to stop lights-out shooting, but the Warriors were getting open looks not only from three but from every spot on the court. Curry and the Warriors can hit shots even when guarded and the Cavaliers were making it easy for them. Kevin Love was lost at times, just like he was against the Spurs. Heading into the game the Cavaliers had the fourth-rated defense in the NBA. There's a good defense somewhere, but it didn't show up against the Warriors.
3. Don't count out the Cavaliers yet, but the Warriors sent a message
After Curry's comments about the Cleveland locker room still smelling like champagne, the Cavaliers should have come out firing. Instead the Warriors looked like the team that lost last year's title. James has said this season that he felt like the Cavaliers need to play with more urgency. This game was a perfect example of how not to do that. The Warriors -- who bounced back quite nicely after a loss to the Detroit Pistons on Saturday -- attacked at every moment, sprinting past the Cavaliers for fastbreak points and easy backdoor cuts.
The Cavaliers are still a work in progress -- Kyrie Irving has been back for just under a month -- but if they play with the type of effort they did against the Warriors, they won't make it out of the East.
The Warriors, meanwhile, continue to show up for big games. Luckily for NBA fans, they get the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 25.
After Monday night, it's safe to say it'll be a game between the two best teams in the NBA.
* * *
Complete domination: The Warriors gutted the Cavaliers and Cleveland fans too