Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, center, celebrates with Draymond Green, left, and Klay Thompson during the second half of Game 2 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
OAKLAND, Calif — Kevin Durant followed up his 38-point, eight-assist and eight-rebound performance from Game 1 with 33 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and Stephen Curry recorded his first career postseason triple-double to help the Golden State Warriors take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals with a 132-113 win in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night in front of another sold out, energetic crowd at Oracle Arena in head coach Steve Kerr’s return to the bench.
Kerr missed the last 11 games of the playoffs dating back to Game 2 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs against the Portland Trailblazers with complications from back surgery nearly two years ago.
“Well, it’s been a great run but none of that matters unless we can finish the job with this series,” Kerr said postgame. “Trust me, we know. It was 2-0 last year, we lost.”
Golden State was in the same position last year, up 2-0, the going up 3-1, before the roof collapsed in on the Warriors’ season and the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history was authored by the Cavaliers, who stole the title in seven games costing the Warriors a chance for the repeat after winning the title in 2015.
In Games 1 and 2 of last year’s Finals, Golden State won both games by a combined 48 points. In the first two games of the Finals this year, the Warriors have defeated Cleveland by a combined 41 points this season according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
But this year is different.
It feels different, especially with Durant, a near-seven-foot scoring machine that has vastly improved defensively in Year 1 with the Warriors.
Durant shot 13-for-22 from the floor and was nearly unstoppable for most of the 41 minutes he was on the court tonight, while Curry scored 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds pulling Golden State within two wins of their second championship in three years.
Durant had five of Golden State’s seven blocks, and three of the team’s five steals.
At 14-0, Golden State is trying to become the first team in league history to go unbeaten on the way to the title. The Warriors currently have the longest postseason win streak in NBA history.
Curry made 7-for-17 from the floor, while connecting on 4-for-11 on 3s, but did most of his damage from the free throw line converting 14-for-14 from the charity stripe in 36 minutes.
The two-time league MVP put on a dribbling display on LeBron James in the third quarter where he drove past the three-time NBA Champion and scored as part of a 16-6 run to close out the quarter and the Warriors never looked back, carrying a 102-88 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Klay Thompson, who had been struggling shooting the ball throughout the postseason but has played superb defense in the previous 13 games, added 22 points on 8-for-12 from the floor to go along with 4-for-7 from behind the three-point line. Thompson added seven rebounds for Golden State, who also shot 18-for-43 on 3s.
Draymond Green had 12 points, six assists and six rebounds, but picked up three personal fouls within the first 11 minutes of the game and only played 25 minutes.
As a team, Golden State shot a blistering 51-percent (46-for-89) from the floor and shot 22-for-24 from the free throw line, while out-rebounding Cleveland 53-41 in the game.
The Cavaliers can hang their hat on the fact that they did force 20 turnovers after only forcing four in Game 1. For a team that didn’t record a single steal in Game 1, Cleveland had four within the game’s first seven minutes before finishing with a 15-5 edge.
“We turned the ball over too much in the first half. But the second half, I think we settled in, tried to play simple and defensively just tried to contest their shots,” Durant said after the game.
Curry had eight of those turnovers and was two away from having a dubious quadruple-double. His 10 first-quarter free throws matched a playoff record for made shots from the stripe in one period shared with Sarunas Marciulionis done on April 28, 1992, at Seattle. It also matched Paul Pierce for most in a Finals quarter according to ESPN Stats and Information.
LeBron James was Cleveland’s best player once again, matching Curry’s triple-double with one of his own, scoring 29 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes. James played spectacular, but appeared gassed in the fourth quarter with fatigue etched on his face.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, James and Curry became just the second opposing players in NBA postseason history to record a triple-double in the same game, joining Lew Alcindor (38 points/23 rebounds/11 assists) and Walt “Clyde” Frazier (10 points/12 rebounds/14 assists), who recorded their performances in Game 2 of the 1970 Eastern Division Finals won by Frazier’s Knicks, 112-111.
Frazier’s Knicks would win that series, 4-1, and go on and win the title defeating, Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
James was 12-for-18 from the floor, while Kevin Love added 27 points and seven rebounds on 12-for-23 shooting.
After 24 points on 10-for-22 shooting for Kyrie Irving in Game 1, Irving managed just 19 points and struggled to find the basket shooting just eight-for-23. Irving was defended aggressively by the Warriors, forcing Irving into taking tough layups and jumpers.
Cleveland shot 45-for-100 (45-percent) from the field for the game, but struggled from 3, shooting just 8-for-29 (27-percent) from deep. The Cavaliers shot 3-for-20 from the three-point line in the first half.
With the series now shifting to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4, the Cavaliers will have to regroup if they want to get any momentum because the Warriors are firmly in the series’ driver seat.
J.R. Smith had zero points as the starting shooting guard, and Kyle Korver led Cleveland’s bench with just eight points, which equaled starting center Tristan Thompson’s offensive output on the night.
Lineup changes for Cleveland could be a possibility, or better yet, should be made. If you’re Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue, you need to do something to shake up the players.
Cleveland already knows the production that they will get from James, Love and Irving on most nights, but the Cavaliers need to get other players involved or this series could become too much of a mountain to climb.