Here is a link to my Monday column about Game 2 of the NBA Finals. The full text runs below:
A funny thing happened to the Warriors on their way to the NBA championship. They lost to the Cavaliers 95-93 in Game 2 of the Finals, lost even though Cleveland is shorthanded. Shorthanded doesn’t begin to tell the story. The Cavs don’t have stars Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving and won’t have them. And they still beat the intact Warriors.
What looked like a Warriors’ pleasure cruise just became a crisis cruise — the ship’s electricity on the fritz, the food spoiled. The Finals certainly became a real Finals, a series against a desperate team that doesn’t know it’s desperate. A team that thinks it can win. And why not?
“Look, this is the Finals,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said afterward. “I mean, it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard.”
Agreed. It was hard. Excruciatingly hard. And it will be hard going forward. That’s for sure. But no one saw this coming, this thing becoming a series, the Warriors losing Game 2 when the Cavs starting point guard was former St. Mary’s player Matthew Dellavedova.
At times, you wonder if Dellavedova even belongs in the NBA. He can’t shoot. OK, he had nine points but he still can’t shoot. Sometimes, he’d drive to the basket and get tangled up with Warriors players like a kid guarded by grownups, and hand off the ball to them like Colin Kaepernick handing off to Frank Gore, not that Kaepernick ever will do that again.
Yet this Dellavedova, known as Delly, controlled Stephen Curry. Yes, controlled him. Made Curry’s charmed life miserable. Had Curry agitated and unsettled all game. It was strange to see. Unaccountable really. But there it was. Curry had his usual rapid release, always in position to shoot when he got the ball. But the ball skipped off the rim, just a fraction off. But off. Very off. As if the laws of physics went crazy. If Curry had anything resembling a Curry game, the Warriors would have won.
“It happens,” Kerr said. “It happens to everybody, whether you’re the MVP or a role player. Sometimes the shots don’t go in. Sometimes things don’t go your way. I’ve seen it with everybody. I’ve seen it with Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan. It doesn’t matter who you are. Nobody is immune from a tough night. Steph has been phenomenal throughout the playoffs. Doesn’t mean he’s going to light it up every single night. You chalk it up to a bad night.”
The chalk image was a gracious way to deflect responsibility from his superstar. Just one of those things. Even Jordan had just one of those things on occasion. And maybe Kerr was right. In overtime, when everyone expected Curry to take over, to sink 3s and win the game for the Warriors, Curry shot an air ball. just one of those things. The shot looked so sad. So unCurry. And at the very end, Curry threw away the ball. It was fitting in a way. Game over. Bad night for Stephen Curry. Just one of those things.
The Cavs didn’t see it that way — the bad-game way, the oh-gee, just-one-of-those-things way.
Here’s LeBron James on Curry’s bad shooting: “It had everything to do with Delly,” James said. “He kept a body on Steph. He made Steph work. When Steph shoots the ball, you automatically think it’s going in. (Dellavedova) did a great job making it tough on Steph.”
Cleveland coach David Blatt saw it the same way. “We’ve got a good game plan in place for how we want to defend. What you try to do is make (Curry’s) life difficult and hope that perhaps that particular day he’s not making some of the really, really tough shots that he does make. Because he’s a shot maker and a tough-shot maker. I thought today we kept most of his shots tough and a lot of them didn’t fall. We just tried to be attached and we tried to be close and tried to disturb.”
You should know that Curry came early to the postgame interview room. Walked in briskly. Businesslike. Positive attitude. No surrender. No excuses. “It didn’t feel right,” he said of his shooting. “But there is no time to worry about that. You’ve got to keep shooting and try to figure it out. I don’t expect to shoot like this.”
It’s what you want the MVP to say. And Curry probably is right. A one-shot deal. Tuesday in Cleveland he buries Dellavedova. He makes the Cavs long for Irving to guard the Warriors’ superstar. Proves the Cavs can’t stop him, have no real game plan against him.
But you can’t help noticing the Cavs made the Warriors play their game. Slow. Lots of bumping. The game decided in the paint. Not by glorious Warriors’ 3-pointers which weren’t so glorious or abundant. The Cavs sank more than the Warriors. Imagine that.
“It was a grind-out, kind of old-school game,” Kerr said. “That’s the style that it’s going to be when you get this deep in the playoffs. It’s rarely a track meet.”
So, the Warriors need to beat the Cavs at the Cavs’ game. They probably can, but it will be harder than anyone thought. And there was something so embarrassing about this loss. The Cavs starting power forward Tristan Thompson went the entire game without scoring a field goal. In the fourth quarter, he sank two free throws. That was his total offensive production. A team with that guy beat the Warriors.
The Cavs used only eight players. At the end, James looked like a corpse, he worked so hard. The Warriors, who always go deep and keep their guys fresh, used 10 players. Only seven of the Cavs’ eight players actually scored. A team with seven scorers beat the Warriors.
It doesn’t make sense. It could have been just a bad game for the Warriors. Or the Cavs could have something — could be something — no one saw.
“It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be an underdog,” Blatt said afterward. “We didn’t make the NBA Finals for no reason.”
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.