26 Dec What The 2015 NBA Finals Rematch On Christmas Day Tells Us
The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 89-83 during Friday’s rematch of the 2015 NBA Finals. But the win more than just gave the Warriors the bragging rights on Christmas Day, the win improved their NBA-best record to 28-1.
Just last week, they became only the 8th team in NBA history to win 30 consecutive regular season games at home. On Friday, they joined the 1997 Bulls as the last teams to win at least 32 in a row at home in the regular season. But remember that these Dubs were 41-1 at home last season but lost to the Cavs in Game 2 of the 2015 NBA Finals 93-95. What significance does this Christmas Day win have?
Erasing The Myth
Erase the myth that the Warriors are merely an incredibly shooting bunch of gunners who beat teams by lighting up the scoreboards. The Warriors’ reign is all about three pointers and that’s a fact. But even if you take that away from them, they can beat the Cavs. The Dubs only had 5 threes on Christmas Day, one by Steph Curry. But they won.
During the 2015 NBA Finals, the Cavs held the Warriors to less than 100 PPG twice and the Warriors lost both games. In their first 28 games of the 2016 regular season, the Warriors scored less than 100 points only once, and that was during their loss (only loss of the season) to the Bucks last December 12. The Warriors lead the NBA in scoring at 115.5 PPG (prior to this game) so to have them beat the Cavs while scoring just 89 is impressive.
Defense Wins Titles
While it was offense that mainly carried the Warriors in 2015, they had the best defensive efficiency last season at 98.2 points per 100 possessions. The Warriors showcased that often overlooked defense on Christmas day, holding the Cavs to 31.6% FG shooting-the third lowest ever in the LeBron James era. Last time the Cavs shot worse? 28.2% against the Rockets on December 2, 2006. Sure, it was partly off night as they went 9-17 on open shots but the Dubs clamped down in the shaded lane, allowing just 16-41 (39%) shots. Andrew Bogut had 4 of the Warriors 10 blocks while Draymond Green grabbed 15 boards. Overall, the Warriors contested 76 of 95 shots and gave up just 23 of them (30.3%). They say offense wins games, defense win championships and the Dubs showed that on Christmas day.
At Full Strength
While there are no consolations in a loss, the Cavs have at least gauged their probable Finals opponent at full strength. Remember that the Cavs played the 2015 NBA Finals without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving who were then injured. Having both healthy hardly mattered on Friday though as both combined to shoot just 9-31 and 23 points, including 0-11 from three point distance. But Irving was just playing his 3rd game of the season and is a far cry from 100%. Perhaps Kyrie will be in much better shape when they meet again on Martin Luther King Day at the Q.
The Cavs held the Splash Brothers to 12-31 from the field and just 2-8 from their bread and butter, three point land. But the Cavs had no answer for Draymond Green who stole the show with 22 points, 15 boards and 7 dimes. Nor were they able to check Shaun Livingston who went 8-9 with 16 points while subbing in for the injured Harrison Barnes. JR Smith had 14, Delly 10 and Tristan Thompson 8 but when it mattered most down the stretch, they watched the Warriors’ defense shackle King James to submission.
On His Own, Again
James was the game’s high man with 25 points but was 2-6 from the field and 1-4 from the line in the final five minutes. He airballed his final three point attempt with 12.7 seconds left and looked tired after playing a game high 39 minutes and 26 FG attempts. Just like in the 2015 NBA Finals, it was all LeBron down the stretch for Cleveland and we know that not one man -not even “the best player in the planet” – can stop the best team in the NBA.
It was just one regular season game. It was a Christmas showcase from the NBA. But if you connect the dots and take note of the little things, it tells us that since the 2015 NBA Finals, the Warriors have improved more than the Cavs and if these Dubs will be unseated in June (that’s a big if), their conquerors will come from the West. As great as King James is, he can only take the Cavs as far as the NBA finals on his own.
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