The Warriors took a commanding 2-0 lead over the Cavaliers on Sunday, winning by 33 at home. Eulogies for Cleveland are already being written, and the NBA Finals didn't even start a week ago. Heck, just two weeks ago it didn't even look like the Warriors would get to the finals! How fast things change.
But don't fret: here are five reasons the finals haven't been decided just yet. We could still have good, competitive basketball and a real series ahead of us.
1. The Warriors have been way better at home than on the road.
Golden State just swept two games at home. That wouldn't be notable if this weren't the finals: the Warriors were thoroughly dominant at Oracle Arena all season long. Golden State went 39-2 at home in the regular season with a +14.4 per game scoring margin, better than that of the Spurs, who went 40-1 at home. In the playoffs, Golden State is now 11-1 at home with a +15.1 per game scoring margin.
Yes, Cleveland fared particularly poorly in Oakland in the first two games of this series, but a number of those home wins for Golden State came without an injured Stephen Curry. The Warriors are performing about as well against the Cavs as they did against anyone else in Oracle with the exception of the Thunder.
That's a small consolation for Cleveland, to be compared evenly with Houston and Portland. But the upshot is that Golden State has been fallible on the road. Over the final two months of the regular season, Golden State went 10-3 on the road while chasing the wins record. That's a damn fine record, but it came with just a +1.4 per game scoring margin, only eighth-best in the league.
The Warriors have had a representative tough row on the road in the playoffs, going 3-4 with a -3.4 per scoring margin. (Those blowouts in Oklahoma City influenced that number heavily.) Lest we have forgotten to just the last round when the Warriors were blown out twice on the road and survived a third only via a historic Klay Thompson outburst, Golden State is a different team at home versus on the road.
The next two games of the finals are on the road. If Cleveland manages to win them, this turns into a best-of-three series.
Video: The Warriors' play that blew up Game 1
2. The Cavaliers should shoot much better at home.
Cleveland is also much, much better at home than on the road. The source of this advantage in the playoffs has largely been three-point shooting splits. The Cavaliers are shooting a masterful 45 percent on three-pointers at home this postseason, vs. 39 percent on the road. In the finals so far, Cleveland is just 12-44 (.273) from long-range. The Cavaliers haven't lost at home this postseason (7-0). All of this points to a better shot in Games 3 and 4 in Ohio.
3. Losing Kevin Love might simplify things.
It's really unfortunate that Kevin Love got clocked in the head by an errant elbow, and the fact that he could suffer any prolonged health effects is awful. The NBA's concussion protocol is pretty serious, and a Monday evaluation will go a long way toward determining whether Love can play in Game 3 on Wednesday. In the unfortunate event he's ruled out, there's a silver lining for Cleveland: the defensive game plan could be greatly simplified. Right now, Cleveland is doing a lot of cross-matching and rotation to help cover for Love's severe disadvantage trying to guard Draymond Green. It's not really working: Green is the clubhouse leader for Finals MVP going into Game 3. That's not all Love's fault. LeBron has been on Green often, and LeBron is roving way too much, leaving him out of position to challenge jumpers. Green had five threes in Game 2. Yet, Love's lack of defensive chops is putting extra pressure on the other Cavaliers (especially LeBron) and plays a major role in how effortless so many possessions have been for the Warriors.
On the other side, Love's offense isn't really helping unlock the Cavaliers' attack. In Game 1, the Cavs fell in love with size advantages on switches; they posted Love whenever he had a good one-on-one advantage, and he missed a bunch of opportunities. In Game 2, he was cold before being knocked out of action. If Love isn't stretching the floor and punishing defenders for helping off, he doesn't belong out there. It doesn't look like Tyronn Lue planned to bench a healthy Love, perhaps fate and an unfortunate blow to the head will take that decision away from him.
(Best wishes to Love for a speedy recovery and no lasting impacts.)
4. LeBron is still here.
Let's not forget that in the 2015 finals against this very Warriors team, LeBron averaged about 36-13-9. He's at 21-10-9 this time around, continuing to focus on playmaking for teammates while shooting far less frequently and drawing many, many fewer fouls. In the year 2016, LeBron isn't going to go down deferring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. He's going to take this series by the mustache and tell it where to go. That doesn't mean he'll be loads better, or that the Cavaliers will win. But the NBA has centered around LeBron and LeBron's will for the better part of 12 years. That reign's not over yet. LeBron was really bad in Game 2. In the past, in big playoff moments, LeBron has followed up poor showings with explosions. (The 2011 finals are the exception.) While there are some serious whiffs of the 2014 finals in this series -- in that version, the Spurs were just obviously better than the Heat from the jump, similar to these two teams -- to expect LeBron to lay down and not make the Warriors earn it is not what we've come to expect.
A year ago LeBron carried the Cavaliers to two wins over these juggernaut Warriors. Golden State's even better, yes, but counting out LeBron is a fool's errand.
5. The Warriors have already proven anything is possible.
Two weeks ago, the Thunder held a 3-1 lead over the Warriors and were coming off of two straight convincing home wins. OKC forced Golden State to win three straight to survive. The Warriors did it, and here they are. Now the Cavs are not the Warriors and the Warriors are not the Thunder. But we've seen the unexpected happen in this postseason already. We have witnessed the tables flipped. Why can't it happen again?
(My internal monologue answers that question: because the Warriors have won seven straight against the Cavs, because Golden State is dominating without Steph Curry or Klay Thompson going off yet, because J.R. Smith is not himself, because Ty Lue is panicking, because the Warriors' role players can't miss, because Draymond Green is locked in, because Andre Iguodala is legitimately the LeBron Stopper, because the Thunder were uniquely suited to challenge the Warriors and no other team stands a chance, because these Warriors are the best team ever assembled, et cetera.)
Shut up, internal monologue. Let's have ourselves a series despite all that. For the love of the Basketball Gods, let's have ourselves a series.
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