As Kevin Durant’s game-icing three swished the basket, the communal energy which had built up inside Quicken Loans arena was instantly sapped.
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After an opening game in which the Cavs should have won preceded a comfortable Warriors’ win, Cleveland fans would not have been too concerned about going down 2-0 in the series. LeBron was in inspired form, Kevin Love was supporting him well, and of course, both games were at the Oracle Arena. While strong at home, Cleveland have had a patchy away record in both the regular season and the playoffs.
As such, however, close this game was for 46 minutes, a loss at home confirms the superiority of their opponents – as you’d expect, with four all-stars.
Cleveland did all the right things, to a great extent – Lebron had a 33 point triple-double, Kevin Love went 20/10, JR Smith and Rodney Hood (unexpectedly) combined for 25 points between them.
And yet, it’s simply not enough. While Cleveland limited Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to 7/27 shooting, Kevin Durant led a masterclass in scoring, dropping 43 points on 65% shooting. Impossible to defend, the (assumed) Finals MVP carried his team to a series-defining away win.
The Cleveland roster, while strong on paper, has crumbled outside of LeBron James and Kevin Love. Jeff Green, Jordan Clarkson and George Hill have been wholly underwhelming. Kyle Korver, who usually shoots the type of threes Durant does before his morning coffee, can’t get any looks. Larry Nance Jr flatters to deceive, as he and Thompson have been consistently outplayed by Javale McGee. Rodney Hood could have proved useful if he’d been willing to do anything other than sulk on the bench in the conference playoffs. And the less said about JR Smith, the better.
LeBron needs help – and he, barring an unlikely import of another all-star, will never get enough in Cleveland. He’s likely to give the Cleveland faithful one last dominant performance before surrendering his title away in Oakland. After that, Philadelphia or Houston may look even more tempting.