As a statement in rebuttal to Christmas Day, the Golden State Warriors told the Cleveland Cavaliers, “See you back here on June 1.”
And they stated it with authority, for all the good it will matter come June.
Monday’s 126-91 dope-slapping of the Cavs, replete though it might have been with DrayBron Round 3, serves only as a talking point for Joe Lacob at Tuesday’s new arena groundbreaking ceremony and as a game for everyone to forget when these two teams next meet, mostly likely in the NBA Finals for a nearly unprecedented third consecutive time.
The last time it has happened in any professional sport, since you didn't ask, was 1952-54 with the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. Richard Jefferson was born shortly thereafter.
Long-term, though, Monday’s curb-stomping has little carryover value. The Warriors have stomped the Cavs and been stomped by them since this series became must-see entertainment two years ago – yes, even against the cultural degradation of The Bachelor. They all serve as prelude to the next game, no matter how long the wait.
But the search for statements never ends, and if there was one, it was that when fully engaged on defense and in transition, the Warriors are downright evil.
Or, to steal the phrase off Steve Kerr’s chest, “SPIRITUAL GANGSTERS,” which we presume is T-shirt for “Find the path of eternal peace and contentment or I’ll put a cap in your hinder.”
The most demonstrative Warrior of all was Draymond Green, whose triple double (11/13/11) was more than enhanced by his plus-43 (tying a career high) and highlighted by his professional foul on a breaking James midway through the second quarter. Green cut off his path to the basket shoulder first, dropping James like wet laundry and causing great anger and consternation among the customers. Green was called for a flagrant foul (category 1: no evacuation needed) and a technical foul, but exempting the view of James laying face-down on the floor that created exaggerated cries of felony flopping, the decision was just.
“I fouled him to stop the break,” Green said impishly, “and he went down. The aftermath – I told RJ to get out of my face. It was just in the heat of the moment, I think . . . having some fun, nothing dangerous.”
“It was definitely a hard foul,” Klay Thompson affirmed. “I think anyone would have gone down if Draymond’s running at you that fast fouling you like that. It was a good hard foul. He probably warranted a Flagrant 1.”
Well, if you’re into message-sending and all that, sure, but the messaging had been delivered by then. The Cavs may have been coming off three days’ rest on the West Coast and at the end of a road trip, but that doesn’t explain a 35-point beatdown. Each of of the Warriors starters – Green, Thompson, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Zaza Pachulia – plainly outplayed their Cleveland counterparts – James, Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love – and the Warrior bench was far better than Cleveland’s.
In short, 126-91 was an accurate representation of the evening. A very accurate representation indeed.
“We wanted to win,” said the Spiritual Gangster Kerr. “We weren’t happy with our Cleveland game on Christmas Day, and any time you are facing a team that you know is one of the best in the league, you are going to be up for it. We were definitely up for it. You could tell we had a lot of good energy and played a really good game.”
Gangster understates his position here, as the entire game was WATB – Warriors At Their Best. They burst from the anthem quickly, put a foot on the Cavaliers before they could make the game interesting and kept it there throughout. While some folks wanted to make the Green-James collision the linchpin of the result (and it did energize the torqued-up crowd), the Warriors were already ahead, 52-35, and the Cavs never got within 14. By the half, they were down 29 and stayed there.
To further accentuate the energy the Warriors brought to their task of redressing the pregame narrative of a 34-6 team wracked with doubts, they outrebounded Cleveland, 58-35, allowing the Cavs only seven offensive rebounds on 57 misses. They had 10 steals and 11 blocks, and outscored the Cavs 37-13 on fastbreak points. And while the Cavs were hammered comprehensively from the top of the roster down, James’ minus-32 is the second worst of his entire career, playoffs included.
In short, the Warriors view this as a very real rivalry no matter what James may say in his passive-aggressive moments, and they had a run of losses and the mockery of a nation with which to deal.
“Oh, it’s definitely a rivalry,” Green said with that smile he uses to break people’s wills. “Just me, though. I don’t know about anyone else. But it’s definitely fun.”
Nor, frankly, does he care much, as you may have gathered in your time paying attention to him.
Besides, it’s a long time until June 1, and there are miles for both teams to walk before that happens, if it happens at all.
And yes, please let it happen.