(Editor's note: This post has been reworked from an earlier version published Jan. 19, 2015.)
The result of Warriors vs. Cavaliers on Monday was always going to be a big deal. After Golden State's finals win, hot start and Christmas victory, the basic storylines to come out of the Martin Luther King Day rematch were set. If the Cavaliers won, the Warriors were mortal and a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would make a real difference should these teams meet in the finals again. If the Warriors won, Cleveland was likely doomed.
The Warriors destroyed the Cavaliers, and like clockwork, lots of people are questioning what Cleveland does now. The Cavs looked like a team with a roughly zero percent chance of beating Golden State four times in seven games. Perhaps that's why they swiftly fired coach David Blatt despite their 30-11 overall record.
As is usually the case, though, we are at risk of overstating the lessons of this game and the impact it should have on Cleveland's season. Here are three reasons the Cavs should have kept calm like Kristaps Porzingis and mostly ignored the 132-98 score.
1. When the Warriors play like that, they'll shred anyone.
Monday's game said far more about the Warriors than the Cavs. Sure, Love is a really rough pick-and-roll defender. J.R. Smith is one of the least composed players in the league, and it costs Cleveland more frequently than it should. Irving has to be better at getting around screens (or selling contact to nab some cheap fouls on Draymond Green).
The Cavaliers are not close to perfect, and to beat a Warriors team shooting like that -- hitting every note in rhythm and playing with such verve and swagger -- you need to be perfect. No defense in the world is stopping Stephen Curry when he shoots like that. No big man is playing the synced-up Green/Curry pick-and-roll well enough to prevent Steph from getting a clean look and stopping Dray from finding daylight. Love was hilariously inept at doing either, but even the best defenders in the league struggle with it.
Curry has bad nights, and he can be affected by defense. But some nights, the stroke is so smooth, the synchronization between him, Green, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut is so perfect that there's really nothing anyone can do. It became evident early that this was one of those nights for the Warriors. As the opponent, you just have to keep plugging and try not to embarrass yourselves. Sometimes even that doesn't work.
Some of those 132 points Golden State put up were the result of shoddy Cleveland defense. Most of them were not. No team on the planet -- not even the Spurs -- is stopping most of those points.
2. The Spurs or Thunder might do the job for you.
Speaking of the Spurs, here's another reason Cleveland shouldn't have panicked about the Warriors: that might have been the last time the Cavs face Golden State this season. With the exception of Monday's game, the Warriors have looked mortal over the past month. Not "mortal" in the sense that they are not exceptional, but some minor flaws have been revealed. The bench is not as heavenly as once imagined (at least once you get past Andre Iguodala and Festus Ezeli) and then minor signs of wear have come into view.
You know who doesn't look mortal of late? The Spurs! They've won 12 straight. San Antonio's net rating this season is +14.9, which is a point and a half higher than that of Golden State. San Antonio's defense is nearly six points per 100 possessions better than that of the Warriors. The gap between the Spurs' No. 1 defense and the Warriors' No. 3 defense is greater than the gap between the Warriors' No. 3 defense and the Timberwolves' No. 20 defense.
Why should the Cavaliers panic about their specific failures against the Warriors when their specific failures against the Spurs might end up being the real problem? Don't get so worked up about being unable to guard the Green/Curry pick-and-roll that you make a move that screws up your ability to stretch out San Antonio's back line. In other words, Kevin Love might still be useful. There's only one Draymond Green, and there's no guarantee you'll see him in the finals.
The Thunder belong in this conversation as well not because Oklahoma City is as good as Golden State or San Antonio, but because Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are simultaneously playing the best ball of their lives and the team hasn't gotten its first shot against the Warriors yet. It's unlikely the Thunder will come out of the West, but they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
3. What the hell are you gonna do anyway?
Well, apparently they think a coaching change will do the trick. But we're skeptical.
In terms of personnel, the few players out there who might make a difference in this matchup are young superstars Cleveland is not going to be able to nab. Sorry, Kawhi Leonard isn't available. Neither is Anthony Davis, who by the way hasn't had great luck against the Warriors either. Cleveland doesn't have the assets to shuffle its game plan dramatically. There's already enough shooting and agility on the roster as is. There is no solution to the Warriors in existence and you can't go buy it somewhere.
Why fret? Continue to dominate the East, hope the West contenders knock themselves stupid trying to beat each other and work on getting those champagne stains out of the carpet. The Warriors' fate is out of your hands now.
* * *
Complete domination: The Warriors gutted the Cavaliers and Cleveland fans too