The Warriors have passed every single test that’s been put in front of them in the past year-plus, and Christmas Day was no exception. The Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 89-83 at Oracle Arena, and it was just another example of how good this team is.
The Cavaliers did a nice job of getting the Warriors to play their style – a physical, halfcourt game – but it still wasn’t enough. What the Warriors are proving to everyone watching basketball is this: they can beat you regardless of the style you want to play.
Here are some takeaways from the Warriors’ victory over Cleveland:
–LeBron James has to do too much. The bulk of Cleveland’s strategy on Friday was to simply put the ball in James’ hands and let him go to work. James alternated between contested jumpers and drives into a crowded lane. Neither was effective.
The Warriors have plenty of bodies to throw at James individually, but they also play the kind of team defense that make it very difficult for James to be efficient. If you take a mental picture of the game, what you constantly see is James driving into a congested lane and trying to make a play while being smothered by more than one defensive player.
Bottom line: It’s tough to see an isolation team beating the Warriors.
–Kevin Love doesn’t do enough. The question to ask, though, is this: Is Love capable of doing any more? It wasn’t long ago that Love was one of the most valued players in the NBA. Where is that guy? Was he ever that guy?
Love seemingly has been reduced to being a 3-point shooter and defensive rebounder for the Cavs and that’s not going to be enough. Ideally, Love would do some damage on the interior – like in the low post – but it doesn’t look like he can score consistently down there against competent defensive teams. And that’s what the Warriors are.
The Cavs might have been missing Love in last year’s NBA Finals, but they had him yesterday and he didn’t do a hell of a lot.
–The Warriors all-substitute lineup needs to improve or be revamped. Interim coach Luke Walton hasn’t been afraid to play five subs at the same time, particularly early in the second and fourth quarters. But that lineup is getting outplayed a little too often, and you’ve got to wonder if Walton – or Steve Kerr – will start to play some starters with the subs … mix it up a little bit.
Then again, this might not be an issue when Harrison Barnes returns. The reason? Barnes is usually on the floor at those times because he gets subbed out for early in the first quarter. If there’s one place where the Warriors are missing Barnes, it’s in that role: a scorer for the Warriors’ second unit.