Wednesday, June 07, 2017

In Game 2, Kevin Durant Displayed His Great Versatility (at the Expense of Kevin Love)

After being destroyed in Game 1, the Cleveland Cavaliers did a better job in Game 2.  LeBron James was excellent (triple double, 12-of-18 shots), and the Cavs kept it competitive in the first half.  Then the second half came.  For the second straight game, they got humiliated.

The Warriors are just too overwhelmingly good.  And, once again, there are a couple of takeaways from this game, starting with All-Defensive-First-Team-selection-worthy Klay Thompson finally getting his long overdue good shooting game (22 points, 67% shooting, 4-of-7 behind the arc) this playoffs.

Then there’s probably the most popular highlight of the game: Stephen Curry shaking and baking LeBron James…
Steph is indeed one of the league’s best ballhandlers, and this play is simply a testament of this.  Sure, he actually double-dribbled in this play, as revealed in slow mo replay.  He probably did it so fast that the refs failed to notice it.  But this doesn’t negate how badass this sequence is.  Stephen audaciously went one-on-one with a demigod – the same demigod that humiliated him in last year’s Finals – and triumphed!  Like LeBron, he also ended up with a triple double.  On the other hand, this sequence also shows that LeBron can be a great defender when he puts his heart into it (which isn’t regularly).  Lesser defenders would have been shaken off in the first few seconds, but LeBron made Steph reset.  If Steph’s quick double-dribble was called, we would have been saying how LeBron won in this sequence instead of the other way around.

However, my most favorite thing about Game 2 is Kevin Durant, who is set to win Finals MVP if he continues playing like he did in the first two games, in which he amassed 71 points on 67% true shooting, 14 assists, 22 rebounds, just three turnovers, three steals, and five blocks.  All of those five blocks happened during Game 2, reminding me once again that Durant is a seven-footer that can protect the rim and hold the middle like the best of centers.

The fifth block came from this beautiful moment…
Kevin Love went to position himself to post up on Durant.  Love failed to go deep enough as he couldn’t muscle Durant.  Love, feeling uncomfortable of going against Durant, started looking for someone to pass back to, but failed to see an opening.  Love decided to carry on with the original plan, posted up, failed to push Durant back, and got blocked.  This would eventually result to a Durant basket at the other end.  Amazing.

This Finals, Durant has been tremendous.  He has always been one of the greatest scorers in the NBA for years, and this was at full display in the first two games.  However, it’s his defense that blew my mind.  He hasn’t only showed that he’s equipped to defend LeBron James in a level that Andre Iguodala (who earned the 2015 Finals MVP, largely in part to the great job he had done in making it difficult and tiring for LeBron to get points) is no longer able to significantly do, but he has also showed that he can fill in for Draymond Green as small-ball center, too, if it’s required of him.

On top of this, Durant can also be a “point center”, averaging seven assists in the Finals so far.  He’s very much capable of setting teammates up, as shown in this alley-oop play with Javale McGee:
Once again, Kevin Love is at the receiving end of this notable sequence…
Notice the hilarious expression on Love’s face.
That is the look of a man horrified out of his mind as he witnesses an unfolding devastation helplessly.

Of course, the Cavs can still come back from the series.  They did it last year in historic fashion.   In fact, they were blown out worse in last year’s first two games (combined 48 points compared to this year’s combined 41 points).  The possibility of a comeback is always open.  But I think that’s unlikely.  The Dubs now have Kevin Durant – a player that has as much transformations as the Doctor.  A player that feels like the combination of Kobe and Duncan at times.  And he won’t allow it.

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